The Silence of Rwandan Religious Leaders

David Himbara served under Paul Kagame from 2006 to 2010 as the head of strategy and policy in the Office of the President and from 2000 to 2002 as the principal private secretary to the president. He since fled the country to preserve his life, as so many others have.

Himbara wrote a post this week, asking the same questions I have frequently asked. He says:

Rwanda is very religious nation in which 56.9% of population are said to be Roman Catholic; 26% is Protestant; 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist; 4.6% is Muslim; 1.7% with no religious affiliation; and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs. These numbers show why the church is a force to reckon with in Rwanda.

So where is Rwanda’s Bishop Tutu? Where are religious activists condemning dictatorship in our homeland? Even outside Rwanda, our church-going brothers and sisters are largely silent.

Rwandan churches have a long history of playing wrong politics. The Catholic Church in particular has almost always played ethnic politics. The church favored the Tutsi during the colonial period, then switching allegiance to the Hutu after 1959. Church leaders were to develop even closer ties with political leaders, especially in the Juvenal Habyarimana dictatorship.

In the Kagame regime from 1994 onwards, the church seems to have become intimidated into silence like the rest of Rwandan society. Like other Rwandans, church leadership is resigned to a fear-driven life in which thoughts, decisions and actions are predominantly motivated by fear of what harm the current dictatorship can do.

I would broaden what he says to PEARUSA, a branch of the Rwandan Anglican Church that operates in the United States and never says a word about the totalitarian government of Rwanda. How can PEARUSA remain silent?

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