The New Times (Kigali)

5 August 2013

Rwanda: First Lady Lauds Rusizi Church On Reconciliation

The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, has commended Mushaka Parish in Rusizi District, for supporting the Government in its push for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans.

She made the remarks yesterday while officiating at celebrations of the Parish's 50th Anniversary. The Catholic parish, which was established in 1963, has over 59,000 members. Addressing thousands of faithfuls, the First Lady commended the parish for coming up with a creative way to foster national unity and reconciliation.

Since 2008, the parish introduced a special programme to help reconcile Genocide convicts with survivors, a programme it called 'Gacaca Nkirisitu' (or literary 'Christian Gacaca').

'Gacaca Nkirisitu' involves Genocide perpetrators and survivors who, together, undergo a healing process through education and understanding of the holy writings. It encourages Genocide convicts to seek forgiveness from those whose relatives were killed during the Genocide and survivors to forgive those who killed their beloved ones.

After all the parties feel it is the right time to act, a reconciliation ceremony is held before the congregation. Mrs Kagame said the 'unique approach' that was used to help in the healing process and strengthening of unity and reconciliation among its members was a key indication that they understand well the government policy in relation to the issue.

The First Lady remainded the gathering that Rwanda has a dark past 'where the killing machine was put into motion in 1994', leading to the loss of over one million innocent lives.

But, she added, thanks to efforts by the government and the population "light has won again over darkness". "We have known the Genocide but today we are happy that its darkness has been defeated because those who stopped it were guided by love, which is indeed what the holy Bible teaches us," Mrs Kagame observed. She urged the country to adopt the Mushaka approach on reconciliation.

Socio-economic development:

Earlier, thousands of faithful gathered at Mushaka football ground for a special service to celebrate the Parish's Golden Jubilee.

The Mass, led by Bishop Jean Damascene Bimenyimana, Monsignor of Cyangugu, in conjunction with the Papal Nuncio Monsignor Ruciano Russo, saw Ildephonse Maniragaba, a native of the area, ordained priest.

Also as part of the celebration, 10 Genocide perpetrators reconciled with relatives of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi after they together concluded six-month sessions on unity and reconciliation.

During a public reconciliation vow, the convicts asked and received forgiveness for their acts to the applause of the public. The ten individuals had been temporarily banned from church activities such as receiving Holly Communion and getting married, until they completed the sessions and welcomed back into the church.

After the vow, the seemingly happy reconciled group hugged and walked shoulderto shoulder as a testimony of their renewed ties.

"Today, we express our gratitude for you have relentlessly been supportive of the Government quest towards sustainable development," Mrs Kagame said.

"Particularly, we commend you for instituting this unique approach in support of national unity and reconciliation policy."

The First Lady also hailed the parish for its role in transforming the lives of local population, commending its role in setting up schools and health facilities, amongst other infrastructures, for the benefit of whole society.

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