IN RWANDA, ROME’S SHAME IS ISLAM’S GAIN
By J. Parnell McCarter
It has been more than a decade now since the horrific genocide in Rwanda. There has been much publicity about the tragedy, but not a sufficient investigation into the role of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in the affair, nor of bringing them to justice. The Roman Catholic Church (led by the Vatican) is a quasi-political institution which has a long history of seeking political power for itself. It has shown itself willing to sacrifice many lives, even those of its own parishioners and priests, to maintain and increase power at its highest levels. That is the reason behind the cover-up of the many sexual abuse cases by Romish priests, and that is the reason behind the collusion of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in the sordid massacre in Rwanda.
Here are quotes from a variety of sources which provide insights into what has happened in Rwanda:
“President Habyarimana, most of the army, most of the judges, ministers, and prefects were Roman Catholics. The fact that society was unable to prevent the catastrophe shows that there was a fundamental breakdown…I have noticed with a certain bitterness a strong continuity in the history of the church. Yesterday, its senior officials colluded with the state. The same thing is happening today. Power has changed hands; the ideology is different, but the attitude of the leaders of the church is the same. Instead of looking after the most destitute-those who are suffering and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel-their eyes are fixed on those who run the country and from whom they expect rewards.”
The Church hierarchy in Rwanda supported the previous regime of President Juvenal Habyarimana. And they failed to denounce ethnic hatred then being disseminated…It was not only Islam that disillusioned Catholics turned to after the genocide. Evangelical churches have also flooded into the country in the past 10 years, and found many new recruits.
“The Catholic Church of Rwanda has long been
accused of serving, since the 1960s, as a channel of propagation for the
"separatist" ideology blamed for the exclusion of the Tutsi minority
and its attempted extermination between April and July 1994. Many Catholic
clerics, including Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro region in the south,
have been accused of taking part
somehow in execution of the genocide.
Accused in April 1999 by his henchmen of exposing his own priests and Tutsi students to the massacres in the province, Misago spent a year and a half in preventive detention before being acquitted in late 2000 by a Kigali tribunal. Once set free, he was reinstated as head of his diocese, but the prosecution has appealed against the court's decision.
Misago still features on the list of main genocide suspects established by the Rwandan judicial authorities.
(Augustin Misago, a Roman Catholic bishop (r.) talks with Vatican representative Salvatore Penacchiao .)
The church's outrage stems from the fact that Misago is charged with crimes against humanity - failure to provide assistance to people in danger and incitement to murder. And he is not alone. Twenty other Catholic priests are facing similar accusations - but he is the highest Catholic official to be charged with genocide in Rwanda. The local Hutu clergy has been accused of offering no resistance, and in some cases assisting in the massacres that took place in many of its churches.
The Vatican envoy to Rwanda, Papal Nuncio Salvatore Pennachio, said it was a day of truth and justice. A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference in Kigali, Vincent Kagawo, said he hoped those in Rwanda who had made easy accusations against churchmen in regard to the genocide, would now think twice before doing so again. The bishop has received the backing of the Pope and other senior Vatican officials right from the start of his trial.
of Roman Catholic Church in Acquittal of Rwandan Bishop Debated
Augustin Misago cleared of 1994 genocide charges
The acquittal of a Catholic bishop on genocide charges reflects the influence of the Church on institutions of government, some political analysts in Kigali, Rwanda, contend.
Others say they are dissatisfied with the verdict, but insist that the country's judicial system operated independently and was not unduly influenced by appeals from Pope John Paul II and high-ranking church officials in Rwanda.
Bishop Augustin Misago, 57, of Gikongoro Diocese, was acquitted Thursday of all charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Presiding Judge Rutatremara Sekarusu Jalier ordered his immediate release and fined the Rwandan government $276 (FRW 100,000) for court costs.
Misago was in Kigali's central prison for 26 months on seven charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The bishop, who looked tired and ill, told Newsroom after the verdict, "I always said I was innocent, but I am happy that the court has exonerated me at long last."
Prosecutors Gerald Gahima and Edward Kayihura said they would appeal the verdict.
Maitre Frederick Mutagwera, president of Ibuka, a national genocide survivors association, said he was disappointed with the verdict and argued that most people accused of genocide are acquitted despite the large number of witnesses who testify.
More than 800,000 people, most of them Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, were killed in fighting in 1994. Many survivors have accused priests and nuns of the Roman Catholic Church of complicity in the killing. Bishop Misago was the highest-ranking Catholic charged. Rwanda is primarily Catholic.
Narcisse Musoni, acting general secretary of the Genocide Survivors assistance fund, said if the acquittal is not reversed, "there would be cause to doubt our judiciary."
"The manner in which the justice system is handling genocide cases is destroying our country's justice system," Mutagwera complained.
Mutagwera said the introduction of letters from the pope may have biased the court in favor of Bishop Misago. It would have been surprising if the pope "had not shown solidarity," said the Rev. Augustin Musada, general secretary of the Rwandan Catholic Episcopal Conference.
One effect of this injustice has been pointed out in the New York Times: