Rwandan Bishop Nathan Gasatura (Anglican) has been making the rounds in the USA lately. He went to South Carolina and spoke up for Bishop Mark Lawrence. He then went to Texas to attend the Consecration of Clark Lowenfield to become an ACNA bishop, appearing with several American Anglican leaders.
Back in Rwanda, Bishop Gasatura heads the Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD) one of the many NGOs that seem to work hand in glove with the Rwandan government. As the RISD website says: “Rwanda Government Ministries” are a “partner” for RISD, in particular, the Ministry of Justice (MINIJUST). This involvement of Anglican bishops with the one party state follows the pattern of bishops Kolini and Rucyahana, who have had roles in Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council, the National Reconciliation Commission (NURC) and the National Commission for the Fight Against HIV/AIDS.
But perhaps more troubling is an event in 2010, when Bishop Gasatura hosted an event for the Global Peace and Unity Foundation presenting President Kagame The Service to Humanity Award.
Why is this troubling? Because Kagame is the head of a repressive one party police state that has immense amounts of blood on its hands. To pick a few data points at random:
- Killing Rwandan Hutus in the Congo: “We attacked and massacred Rwandans brutally and in unimaginable ways. Jacques Nziza commanded us, who was in turn under the command of General Paul Kagame. They asked that all Hutu refugees on Congolese soil be assassinated, and announced that whoever refuses to do so will be executed on the spot. (…) Among my colleagues there were some who were executed because they refused to obey orders.””We placed refugees fleeing Tingi-Tingi (a NDRL refugee camp) in trucks and sent them off in several places: there we drove on the other side of the river to a place called the “left bank”. Thousands and thousands that were killed. Another place is Devansende, 59 kilometers from the city of Kisangani; in that place we massacred thousands of people. We dug holes where they threw the bodies, we did not distinguish [between] children, women and aged people, everyone had to go because the orders were to kill everything Hutu on Congolese soil. We employed all means at our disposal: bullets, agafuni (hoes), plastic bag over the head, tie his hands behind, etc…..” he continues.
- Operating killing fields in Rwanda: The Killing Field in Nyungwe Forest. According to an eyewitness, President Kagame operates a horrendous killing field in Nyungwe National Forest located between the towns of Gikongoro and Cyangugu in Rwanda. It is well-established and has been there since the RPA took over the whole country in 1994-1995 and it continues to be used even today. It is run by the DMI who kills both soldiers and civilians there. The killing field is always busy and receives its victims from all over Rwanda and also from outside the country. The place is guarded by about a platoon-sized group of DMI commandos and President Kagame’s Republican Guard.
- Running a tyrannical state: Kagame tightly controls the country and its citizens through the Tutsi- dominated Army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the country’s dominant political party. Throughout Rwanda—in every town and tiny village—the RPF is present, not unlike the Stasi in East Germany during the Cold War. While a town may have a Hutu mayor, under Kagame’s system government officeholders have little authority compared with the RPF representatives who work in parallel to them and often pull rank. RPF regulations—enforced by local commissars with vigor and steep fines—govern almost every aspect of daily life. There are laws requiring peasants to wear shoes and good clothes when not working their fields and prohibition of drinking banana wine from shared straws—a traditional gesture of reconciliation—and myriad other rules, generally resented as gratuitous and insulting. “The RPF saturates every aspect of life in Rwanda,” said Susan Thomson, a longtime Rwanda expert at Colgate University. “They know everything: if you’ve been drinking, if you’ve had an affair, if you’ve paid your taxes.” Everything is reported on, Thomson says, and there is no appeal.
Given these and many other facts, how can Rwandan Anglican clergy not speak up for the oppressed and against the murderous regime? How can Bishop Gasatura in fact host an event for the man at the head of this wicked state – an event which implies that he is a great leader? I emailed Bishop Gasatura asking him for his justification for this event, and received no reply. Romans 1 condemns those who give approval to others who commit evil acts:
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Ezekiel 33 says that we must warn the wicked:
If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
In fact, one of the key lessons to learn from the pre-genocide church is that it utterly failed to speak the truth to the government of that day, which was another one party state that the Church was in bed with. In light of this, it is a tragic failure on the part of PEAR to fail to confront President Kagame. Bishop Gasatura said this in South Carolina:
Because of the Rwandan genocide we suffered when the whole world stood by and no one … came to its rescue, we decided as a church we should never keep quiet while the church of Christ was seemingly undergoing a spiritual genocide so we stretched out our hands and we said, “Brothers, we know America is a great country, but this is a moment to stand for Christ no matter what the consequences”
And yet, where is the voice of the Church in standing up to the current repressive regime in Rwanda?