The Anglican Church of Rwanda Prior to the Genocide, Part II

In his essay, “Christianity, Revival and the Rwandan Genocide,” Kevin Ward takes a historical look at the East African Revival and the role of the Anglican Church of Rwanda in the genocide of 1994.  The essay is an excellent piece of historical work that should be required reading for everyone in PEAR USA. Ward writes:

Between 1965 and 1990,the Eglise Episcopale au Rwanda (EER) built itself up as a predominantly Hutu church. From being a small group, numerically insignificant, it expanded rapidly, establishing a mass following in the years after independence. The leadership was overwhelmingly Hutu. The relations with the government were close. Protestants were glad that the new regime, while heavily Catholic, was freer with regard to the Protestant churches than during the colonial regime. A close working relationship was formed. By 1992 this had become far too close for the good of the church, especially as Habyarimana’s regime became discredited and was seen as excessively narrowly based on a small clique of Hutu from the north west of Rwanda. Bishop Sebunuguru became closely identified with this regime, as did a large proportion of the bishops and pastors.

Moreover, by 1990, the Anglican church was deeply involved in internal wrangling and divisions. They were focused on jealousies and bitterness between Adoniya Sebununguri, bishop of Kigali, and John Ndandali, bishop of the second diocese of Butare, created in 1978. The conflict was focused on who would become the first Archbishop of the new Anglican province of Rwanda created in 1992. Although personal factors were paramount in this conflict, it did strangely parallel political divisions between the ‘north,’ where the deeply unpopular president came from, and a ‘south,’ which felt excluded. A series of other conflicts among the leadership of the churches began to disfigure the Anglican church: based on personal and family rivalries, regional differences, political disputes (as a multi-party system was introduced). Hutu-Tutsi divisions were only one of many factors fueling and sustaining these disputes.  Often the rhetoric of the Revival was introduced into the disputes. At high-profile meetings of reconciliation, church leaders confessed and sang Tukutenderza in the old spirit of the Balokole [Balokole means ‘saved’ – editor] fellowship, but these occasions did not seem to have the power to transform the faction-riven nature of the church. The form of Revival had replaced its genuine spirit.

One of many interesting takeaways from this essay is that the reconciliation narrative was actually in place prior to the genocide of 94, and was in fact an artifact of the East African Revival (which seems to have been a Keswick phenomenon by the way). The narrative then went national after the 94 genocide and was somewhat stripped of its overtly Christian foundation. Also, this constant harping on reconciliation even prior to the genocide did nothing to avert the genocide or change the behavior of this highly Christianized nation.

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