Bishop Mbanda on the Rwandan Church

Archbishop Kolini, Paul Kagame and Bishop Mbanda

Writing in 1997, current Anglican Bishop Laurent Mbanda offered a fairly scathing take on the Catholic Church in Rwanda:

The case in Rwanda is reflected in Linden’s statement: ‘For many, Catholicism has simply become the religion of the powerful, an opinion for which there was ample evidence in Rwanda.’

[…]

The Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda quickly interjected itself into political life. From the beginning, it has never been seen to rise above its switching of allegiance from one group to another-first from the Hutus to the Tutsi and later back to the Hutus. This flexibility has always presented a paradox to the Rwandan people. Somehow the Roman Catholic Church has always seemed to be able to read signs of political changes to come, and made statements that would help it either to be on neutral ground or to line up with the strong.

From the activities of the colonial administration and its alliance with the Catholic Church, Mbanda draws the conclusion that it would have been better to be apolitical:

The Catholic Church, as well as the mainline Protestant denominations that followed, would have done better to avoid close identification and involvement with politics in order not to compromise their Christian witness.

Mbanda talks about visiting elderly Rwandans in 1994 who knew the first Anglican missionaries to Rwanda, and says of the Anglican missionaries:

They were known for their tireless relief work during the famine years, and their choice to be apolitical. The Anglican missionaries were doing a wonderful work that King Musinga often described as exemplary.

Mbanda again says:

It is dangerous for the Church to take sides in politics, more so when Christian teachings are organized to fit a political ideology.

He writes:

There is no one time in Rwandan church history when the Church was not involved in political games, ethnic divisions and discrimination, although yet on the outside, it appeared to be apolitical, continuing the preaching of love, peace and justice;

Mbanda’s conclusion that the Church should be apolitical is not backed up by any Scriptural argument, and it is disastrous in the face of a dictator like Paul Kagame who practices murder.

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