Skip to comments.An Evil Brew
Posted on 09/09/2013 1:13:41 PM PDT by count-your-change
An Evil Brew
Christian Churches and Genocide in Rwanda
"In 1994, the small East African state of Rwanda was torn by one of the century's most brutal waves of ethnic and political violence. In a three month period from April to June, the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), working with trained civilian militia, systematically massacred as many as 1 million of the country's 7.7 million people. The primary targets of the violence were members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group, who were chased from their homes, gathered in churches and other public buildings, ostensibly for their protection, then methodically murdered, first with grenades and guns, then with machetes and other traditional weapons.......".
So begins a paper from 1997 by Timothy Longman entitled Christian Churches and Genocide in Rwanda.
The exact numbers of those killed is not known and perhaps cannot be known since even today culpability on the part of the major religious denominations in Rwanda is being denied and many who witnessed the murders either took part in them or were killed themselves or perhaps have fled the country, never to return.
Though the country was majority Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Seventh Day Adventist clergy were also accused of complicity in the horrific slaughter.
All the while others from the same denominations risked and often lost their lives protecting fellow Rwandans.
How such a genocide could occur and how priests and pastors could aid the killers, oft times of their own members, is the question Timothy Longman attempts to answer both in this paper and in a book that followed some years later.
In his conclusion Longman writes, "Given the facts that I have presented, it should be clear that the failings of the Rwandan churches during the genocide were not the result of a few corrupt individuals but rather were deeply rooted in the very nature of Christianity in Rwanda.....". And he describes what I call, "an evil brew", that mixing of religious devotion and the political goals of the state as expressed by political parties, by saying,
"While never publicly endorsing genocide, the churches nevertheless are complicit because they helped to create and maintain the authoritarian and divided society that made genocide possible and because the entanglement of the churches with the state made the churches partners in state policy"
But there was one Christian group, that took no part, however peripheral, in the genocide, the apolitical Jehovah's Witnesses. They nonetheless suffered the loss of many of their members. Contrast that with the comment of a Tutsi priest,
"People came and demanded that my fellow priest reopen the church and hold mass. People came to mass each day to pray, then they went out to kill."
Longman's paper can be found at faculty.vassar.edu/tilongma/Church&Genocide or by googling Christian Churches and Genocide in Rwanda.
So it seems. Try google with the title Christian Churches and Genocide in Rwanda Longman. You’ll find the Vassar link.
Just demonstrates that church membership does not in and of itself produce decent human beings.
It is noteworthy that the author lists only one “Christian” denomination, the JWs, as not participating at all in the killings, except as victims. They were also the only “Christian” group that was totally uninvolved with the Jewish Holocaust, since they were in the camps themselves. And they are a group many refuse the title “Christian” to.
A big part of the horror of this massacre was that it lasted so long. It is one thing for a mob to get out of hand and kill its enemies in an orgy of violence. It is quite another for it to go on for months, with large numbers of people getting up each morning to kill more of their neighbors.
Given the facts that I have presented, it should be clear that the failings of the Rwandan churches during the genocide were not the result of a few corrupt individuals but rather were deeply rooted in the very nature of Christianity in Rwanda. The manner in which Christianity was implanted in Rwanda and the policies and ideas promoted by missionaries began a transformation of Rwandan society that ultimately made genocide possible. After independence, the churches stood as important centers of social, economic, and political power, but rather than using their power to support the rights of the population, the churches were integrated into wider structures of power that allowed wealth and privilege to become concentrated in the hands of a select few. The churches as institutions worked with the state to preserve existing configurations of power in the face of increased public pressure for reform, ultimately culminating in the strategy of genocide. While never publicly endorsing genocide, the churches nevertheless are complicit because they helped to create and maintain the authoritarian and divided society that made genocide possible and because the entanglement of the churches with the state made the churches partners in state policy. People could thus kill their fellow Christians on church property and believe that their actions were consistent with church teachings. The complicity of the churches in the genocide is not merely a failing of Christianity in Rwanda, but of world Christianity as it has established itself in Africa, and it should lead people of faith throughout the world to question the nature of religious institutions and the ways in which they exercise their power.
Pure anti-Christian propaganda. Hogwash.
Consider the source: an academic from Vassar. The Rwandan Massacre (this latest one) was the result of ethnic, tribal, cultural and political forces. The various Christian churches were swept up in it like everything else in Rwanda.
The primary cause of the Rwandan Massacre (1994) was tribalismnot religion.
Emmanuel M. Katongole
A Catholic Reassessment of Christian “Social Responsibility”: When Cardinal Etchegaray of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace visited Rwanda on behalf of the pope, he asked the assembled church leaders,
“Are you saying that the blood of tribalism is deeper than the waters of baptism?” One leader present answered, “Yes it is.”
This is the worst kind of academic hate speech and does nothing to clarify or help matters. Disgusting.
Because of their refusal of military service the JW’s were not to be found in the militias or military factions either. The one charge against them was they refused to join “security patrols”, another name for the death squads that searched out people to be killed.
It is true the killing was ethnic/tribal in motivation, not religious.
It is equally true that religion seemed to have no effect at preventing people from participating in the killing. The article says most church members were killed by fellow church members, as were most clergy. In some cases, clergy were reportedly murdered by other clergy of their own church, and clergy personally participated in murder gangs.
Huge numbers of people participated in these murders. It is likely a larger percentage of the population personally participated in these killings than in any other of the genocides of the 20th century. In a country that is over 90% Christian, according to the CIA, that should be of concern.
If Christianity is to mean anything real, it would be that Christians would refuse to participate in such massacres. We’re supposed to imitate Christ, and can anyone see Christ doing any such thing?
While Christianity did not cause these massacres, or really contribute to the hatred that caused them, as the author seems to imply, it most certainly did nothing to inhibit them, either. And that is worrisome.
sadly, I heard the opposites, where tribal hutu killed Christians in the churches or locked them in and burned them
In your conclusions:
“While never publicly endorsing genocide, the churches nevertheless are complicit because they helped to create and maintain the authoritarian and divided society that made genocide possible and because the entanglement of the churches with the state made the churches partners in state policy. People could thus kill their fellow Christians on church property and believe that their actions were consistent with church teachings. The complicity of the churches in the genocide is not merely a failing of Christianity in Rwanda, but of world Christianity as it has established itself in Africa, and it should lead people of faith throughout the world to question the nature of religious institutions and the ways in which they exercise their power.”
You need to reassess your stated conclusions. The churches in Rwanda at the time of the massacre were like most African churches across the continent are today: they were deeply involved in community and politics, often as instigators for change for social improvement. There were very few that “helped to create and maintain the authoritarian and divided society that made genocide possible”. This is an outrageous statement.
The Rwandans I know, including clergy, were caught up in the madness and were equal victims of it. The RPF and militia had lists of clergy to hunt down and kill, regardless of whether they were Hutu or Tutsi. They hunted them because they resisted the genocidal dictat of the government and other political forces.
The reason so many churches are now museums full of bones is not because they were conspiracy hubs to commit genocide: the are full of bones because the people took refuge in them, while their neighbors killed them with clubs and machetes or burned them to death.
Your scholarship points the finger at Christianity as a principle cause of the genocide. This is a lie.
And I think you know it.
I apologize for addressing remarks as if to you. I mean to address the author of the paper, Timothy Longman.
It’s not my scholarship, I merely commented on it.
And I stated very clearly that the killings were not religious in motivation.
My only point is that while the Christianity of the nation did not cause the killing, it also did nothing at all to stop it.
There is, unfortunately, massive evidence of clergy, including high-ranking clergy participating enthusiastically in the killings, including inviting members of their own congregations, but of the “wrong” ethnicity, to gather there for “safety,” and then calling in the killers.
From the bottom of my heart I wish this was not the case. But it is what it is. And none of the considerable research I’ve done on the subject has turned up much in the way of what we would expect from Christians. They failed. Though this was not a failure of Christianity as such, it was most definitely a failure of Christianity to overpower the cultural and tribal motivations that existed prior to the Christian overlay, and which were obviously much more powerful.
BTW, I reject the Marxist meme that blames all the antagonism between groups on European colonizers. They even make idiotic claims about the groups having existed in peaceful harmony before evil Europeans exploited their divisions. As if the Hutu had previously enjoyed being the serfs of the Tutsi.
Sorry, didn’t read down far enough before responding to your first post.
I think the absolute least we can reasonably expect of Christians is to not enthusiastically participate in genocide.
The Hutu killers were, sadly, themselves "Christians." And they killed "moderate" Hutus as well as Tutsis.
The denominations and even individual churches were mostly multi-ethnic. It's not like it was the Catholic Hutus vs. the Adventist Tutsis.
Well, we’re finding much to agree on. Although, I disagree strongly with Longman and others who say that Christianity is the root cause of the genocide.
When Cardinal Etchegaray visited Rwanda on behalf of the Pope shortly following the genocide, he asked the assembled church leaders, “’Are you saying that the blood of tribalism is deeper than the waters of baptism?’ One leader present answered, ‘Yes it is.’”
Indeed it is. Then how can we answer for the Christian nation of Germany and their conduct in WW II?
The problem lies in the hearts of men, not the teachings of Jesus Christ.
And I agree with you as well concerning the Marxist revisionists that claim the Germans and Belgians introduced racial discrimination into Rwanda. Many Rwandans also make this claim. It is much like blaming white Americans of today for slavery. No question that the Europeans aggravated racial tensions, even severely, but the race wars between the Hutu and Tutsi, and the victimization of the Twa, go back centuries.
The political goals of whoever was in power were treated as God’s will so that the divisions within churches often ran along political lines.
In the South slavery was viewed as the natural order of things since God had supposedly made dark skin a sign of inferiority. When the local minister preached such nonsense what slave owner would feel bad about carrying out “God’s will”?
Don’t forget the Hutus belonged to the same churches as the Tutsis. What sort of Christianity had these churches been teaching for the past hundred years?
That was the point of the author for those who care to actually read what he said.