The Anglican Church of Rwanda Prior to the Genocide

Reading about the Anglican Church prior to the genocide shows how the church was totally co-opted by the one party (MRND) state and the Hutu majority. The heterodox Rev. Roger W. Bowen wrote “Genocide in Rwanda 1994 – An Anglican Perspective.” He said of the Anglicans:

Within the Anglican Church it was hard for Tutsis to advance in leadership while the hierarchy remained solidly Hutu.  The issue, which in the past in times of revival had been addressed so powerfully, was allowed to remain unresolved.  The challenge to find a deeper, more fundamental identity “in Christ” where there is no Jew nor Greek, Hutu nor Tutsi, seems to have been forgotten by many.  There were glorious exceptions to this where Christians who were also Hutu helped to protect their Tutsi neighbors for the interahamwe militias.  By and large, however, the Church had allowed these ethnic tensions to continue unresolved, often below the surface, until conditions occurred where the issue exploded beyond their control in horrific violence.  What happened in Rwanda is a salutary reminder that the fear and pain preventing the Church from addressing a painful tension within itself needs to be overcome is one is to avoid the far more horrific consequences of not facing it. 

Specific Anglican bishops of that time were complicit with the genocide. For example:

Far from condemning the attempt to exterminate the Tutsi, Archbishop Augustin Nshamihigo and Bishop Jonathan Ruhumuliza of the Anglican Church acted as spokesmen for the genocidal government at a press conference in Nairobi. Like many who tried to explain away the slaughter, they placed the blame for the genocide on the RPF because it had attacked Rwanda. Foreign journalists were so disgusted at this presentation that they left the conference (African Rights, Rwanda, Death, Despair, pp. 900-902).

Because the church did not stand up to the government or distance itself from the government, it was drawn into complicity:

Like the Catholics, many within the hierarchy of the Protestant churches had had close links with the Hutu regimes since independence. These links continued when the government was radicalised step by step. The profound links were clearly demonstrated when most of the Rwandan church leaders fled the country following the military defeat of the government responsible for the genocide. This did not mean that the church hierarchies were systematically involved in the planning of the genocide, but it indicated that the churches as organisations had not taken the responsibilities they were supposed to, due to their too close links to the government.

Former bishop Musabyimana was accused of consorting the government and acting as an emissary abroad on behalf of the government:

Samuel Musabyimana (44), formerly Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Shyogwe, Gitarama prefecture in Rwanda, was arrested in Nairobi yesterday and transferred immediately to the Detention Facility of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha. 

The count of conspiracy is based upon meetings with high level government and military officials organized or attended by Musabyimana. According to information from the ICTR, Bishop Musabyimana is said to have consorted regularly with Ministers of the interim Government of Rwanda and acted as an emissary abroad of the Government to legitimize its policies. This was at a time when those policies were known to include a plan of extermination of the Tutsi and the Hutu political opposition, according to the Tribunal.

Former Archbishop Carey said: “The church in Rwanda lost an opportunity to be prophetic during the genocide,” Carey said. “The church should have been calling out for justice but by and large its voice was silent.”
But I would take issue with what Archbishop Carey said in this regard: the Church should have spoken prior to the genocide! Yes it was silent during the horror, but this was in part because it was silent in the face of wickedness prior to the horror. There is nothing wrong with Church/State alliances on their face, but this assumes that the Church can rebuke the State, not simply go along with whatever evils it is peddling.
At his enthronement, post-genocide Archbishop Kolini said: “Discrimination has been uprooted, the church is not only salt but also light. …The church failed to warn, to preserve, to give taste and to transform Rwandan society.”
Is the church now warning and being salt and light?

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