Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pope Francis speaks out in support of reconciliation in Rwanda. But will we listen?

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The pope is speaking out on Rwanda. This is a big deal and I wish it was getting the attention it deserves. Even more, I wish harder questions were being asked.

The relationship between the Rwandan government and the Roman Catholic church has improved greatly since the mid-1990s when they treated each other as nemesis. Somewhere along the road, a consensus was reached. The church would stop criticizing the government's abuses and the government would back off any form of interference.

No one knows when or where how this consensus was reached. However, it has worked for the most part--of course, with some monumental setbacks.

Among the current major points of contention is the tendency for the Kagame regime in Rwanda to demand absolute loyalty. This has continuously put the church in an awkward situation, more so since the church has traditionally regarded itself as the guardian of the masses (read : Hutu). In some cases, individual priests have rebelled against the state and some have either been killed exiled or imprisoned. That said, it is difficult to remember a time in recent history when the church, in any capacity, lashed out at the government.

Regardless, many probably doubt whether this latest statement by the pope will amount to anything worthwhile. The Rwandan government insists that the Catholic church has to issue an apology because of its past role in the genocide. On its part, the Catholic church has never accepted responsibility choosing instead to blame the "bad apples". Indeed, several priests and even nuns have been convicted of participating in the killings. But Catholic priests nuns and members were also victims--some killed by Kagame's forces. What I am suggesting here is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

In the end, the pope is right to awaken the church from slumber. This is a pope that is increasingly concerned about the global poor--the rights of the "wretched of the earth". If priests are to push for reconciliation in Rwanda (which they should), it will definitely clash with the government's priorities. That said, there is no way we can achieve truth and reconciliation without the church participating in the process.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope the church would come out of the closet about reconciliation in Rwanda. They have been silent for so long.