Rwanda: Catholic Clerics Examine Post-Genocide Challenges

The most relevant post-Genocide religious teaching in Rwanda was unity and reconciliation and the theme remains pertinent even as new challenges emerge, the Catholic Archbishop of Kigali Archdiocese has said.

Antoine Kambanda delivered the message on Thursday at a three-day conference in Kigali about post-Genocide religious teachings.

Organised by the Kigali branch of the Jesuits, one of the orders of the Catholic Church, the on-going forum was organised in honour of the congregation's members and other Rwandans who died in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to discuss the most relevant approaches to religious teachings in post-Genocide Rwanda.

Kambanda, who gave a lecture on 'the role of the Church in the process of reconciliation in Rwanda', emphasised that the Catholic Church helped many Rwandans reconcile themselves with God as well as fellow citizens.

"For the last 25 years, Rwanda is in the process of rebuilding itself and the Church gives her contribution in efforts to promote unity and reconciliation," he said.

The archbishop said that the topics of compassion, peace, unity, and reconciliation continue to be relevant as challenges related to the Genocide continue to emerge today.

They include former prisoners who are now going back to society after completing their sentences, children who are becoming aware of their parents' role in the Genocide, orphans, among other challenges.

"There are different problems related to new challenges," he said, singling out newly freed Genocide convicts and children born in exile.

"There is a mixture of complex issues we have to deal with".

For Bishop Philippe Rukamba, the president of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church in Rwanda, the Church needs to play a bigger role in educating Rwandans to be good citizens who don't endorse destructive ideologies of divisionism and ethnic segregation.

Thérèse Mukabacondo, a nun from the Benebikira Order, concurred with the bishop, explaining that the Church, which runs 40 per cent of primary schools in the country, has a major role to play in education.

"We need to sensitise parents to be at the centre of their children's education and also support them in this task that often overwhelms them," she said.

She emphasised that current challenges in the education sector in Rwanda include domestic violence that negatively affect children, divorce, and lack of model family leaders to emulate, especially for young parents who were orphaned by the Genocide.

She also said that globalisation and recent developments in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are relevant challenges to children's education, especially when it comes to protecting them from ideologies of divisionism and hate speech that often swarm the internet space.

The on-going forum was organised under the theme, "Reinventing Theology in Post-Genocide Rwanda: Challenges and Hopes".

Role in Genocide

The Catholic Church has been accused of playing a central role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, during which at least 60 Church premises across the country became killing grounds.

Speaking in April, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said that at least 25 priests have been prosecuted for their role in the Genocide while several others remain on the run.

During the Genocide, at least 200 members of the Catholic clergy, including priests, nuns and brothers were killed.

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