A Tutsi's Hope
Approximately 90 percent of the people in Rwanda, Burundi, and Zaire claim to be baptized Christians. In the 1930s, in fact, the three countries experienced what is called the "East African Revival." A critical question, therefore, emerges: How can genocide and endless bloodshed take place among those who claim to be baptized Christians?
Remember, the house built on the rock stood even in the face of great storms. However, the house built on the sand fell when the wind and the rain came. When the wind of politics and the rain of tribalism came to this part of Africa, many people with weak foundations collapsed. Either they participated in violence, or they remained silent in the face of injustice.
Some Christians stood against the violence, and they were martyred for their strong stand of faith. Israel Havugimana, a representative of African Enterprise, was one such person. His identity was first of all that of a Christian—not a Hutu—one who stood for the gospel of love and truth. For his convictions he lost his life, along with his children and one of his parents.
Two kinds of genocide
It is my belief that there was not one, but two genocides—a physical genocide and a spiritual genocide. Spiritual genocide refers to the presence of sin and hatred in people's hearts. For example, when a Roman Catholic cardinal attended a meeting of Rwandan church leaders, he asked: "Is the blood of tribalism more important than the water of baptism?" One of the church leaders answered, "Yes." When this type of sinful world-view is present in the hearts of people, it leads in its worst case to the tragic physical genocide witnessed in Rwanda. One church leader, the Reverend Frederick Robertson, summed it up well: "We do not want a new world, we want new hearts."
This kind of genocide has happened elsewhere, most recently in Bosnia. I think the main cause is human nature. I have been convinced more than ever of the reality of sin. Although I realized it before, I didn't think it could take such terrible forms as the merciless killing of babies and the elderly—even the killing of one's own children because one parent was from the other tribe!
Yet God's power has been manifest, too. A woman who was praying to have her own baby was given a three-month-old orphan baby when she passed through a road block. When she complained to God that she had no home or food for this child, God gave her milk in her breast.
In the face of such tragic genocide, many people ask me, "Is there any hope?" I, myself, an ethnic Tutsi, have known many people personally who have been violently killed in Rwanda. My wife's family was murdered. My family members are currently refugees in Rwanda due to the violence in Zaire. Indeed, there is much pain and suffering in this region, but I still strongly believe that there is hope—for where there is no hope, there is no God. With God, all things are possible.
Identification with the suffering
Throughout the United States and world, many Christians ask me, "Bishop, as the church, what can we do?" My answer is this: "We are one body. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. When one member rejoices, we also share the joy." Perhaps part of the problem lies in individualistic Christianity in which people fail to see themselves as part of one body throughout the world. In part, then, the answer comes when people care enough to take an interest, understand the problems, and then become involved. How can caring Christians become involved?