Christian church groups and relief organizations are spending millions of dollars to help refugees who have fled HutuTutsi tribal warfare in Rwanda (CT, May 16, 1994, p. 54), but they feel helpless in combating senseless killing that has extended to a place traditionally exempt from violence: the church.
Priests, religious workers, and orphans who had sought sanctuary in churches have been murdered by rebel soldiers in separate incidents. Three Roman Catholic bishops of the majority Hutu tribe—Vincent Nsengiyumva of Kigali, Thaddee Nsengiyumva of Kabgayi, and Joseph Ruzindana of Byumba—were slain by soldiers of the minority-dominated Tutsi Rwanda Patriotic Front on June 8.
"There are political and ethnic components to the violence, but it is hard to understand except in terms of deep-seated hatred and pure evil," says David Loudon, disaster response director of World Relief.
As the violence has spread, estimates of the dead range from 500,000 to 1 million.
More than 1 million refugees have gathered in 40 camps in Rwanda and many more in surrounding countries. Loudon says the horror is taking a tremendous toll on the children, many of whom have been maimed in machete attacks. "They're not eating, they're not sleeping, they're not speaking."
In addition to World Relief, other agencies responding to the crisis include Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, World Vision, and World Concern.
The World Council of Churches and Lutheran Federation are coordinating a $9 million relief effort, which includes raising $2 million in the United States through Church World Service.
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