Churches accept guilt for Rwandan genocide
A recognition of the churches' failure to address the genocide in Rwanda ten years ago, and an urgent call for resources to complete the task of restoration are among the main results of an ecumenical workshop on ìLasting peace in Africaî ending yesterday in Kigali.
The 16-18 April 2004 workshop, convened by the Protestant Council of Rwanda and the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Rwanda, the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) was attended by church and ecumenical leaders from some 20 African countries.
The workshop's conclusions were summarized in a document - the Kigali Covenant - read at a commemorative service held on Sunday evening at Kigali stadium.
The document recognizes and apologizes for the failure of the ecumenical family, said a statement from the World Council of Churches. "We accept our guilt for inaction during the genocide in Rwanda before God and offer our apology, as some Rwandan churches [have already done], to the people of Rwanda," the document says.
Deeply touched by "the efforts of the Rwandan government, churches and humanitarian agencies" to bring "solidarity and acts of healing to the victims of the genocide," participants at the workshop noted that "more resources are needed to complete the task of restoration".
Through the Covenant, they called "for a strong advocacy effort and support of the healing process currently taking place" in Rwanda. "The ecumenical family must undertake to assist in any way possible" the victims of the genocide, they stated.
Committing themselves to make sure that "never again should such a degree of violence and crime against humanity be allowed to occur in any of our countries," participants stressed the need to build "the capacity of our churches in advocacy" and to be "proactive in the prevention of conflicts".
They also challenged "the leadership of churches and governments to feed the minds and souls of their people with love, peace and reconciliatory messages so that painful experiences in human memory are not exploited".
At the same time, they committed themselves to "stand up and speak against behaviour, pronouncements and practices that have the tendency to set one group of people against another".
The workshop participants were personally confronted with "the depth of the horror" of "the dark hundred days" that the genocide lasted when they visited the Ntarama Memorial (formerly a Roman Catholic chapel) and the Kigali Memorial Centre.
"We saw the remnants of the genocide in the form of bones, skulls and dilapidated clothing and personal belongings of babies, children, youth and adults. [Ö] We also heard stories of women victims of the genocide who were raped and who today are living with HIV/AIDS and bruised bodies; child-headed households and totally handicapped persons."
These testimonies reminded them of the passion of Christ. "The abuse, anger, tension, humiliation, trauma, pain and tears inherent in any genocide experience like that of Rwanda remind us of the event leading to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ."
But they also found "hope and courage" within and among Rwandans who have "embarked with determination [on] the process of reconstruction of [their] country and reconciliation of its sons and daughters" . They were therefore able also to "thank God for the victory of Easter - for bringing us back to life, for bringing Rwanda back to life".
The Kigali Covenant was received for further study and implementation by a joint delegation of the WCC and the AACC, headed by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia and AACC president Rev. Nyansako ni-Nku, which visited the country from 16-18 April.