Ecumenical Leaders Apologize for Inaction in Rwanda

“Never again should such a degree of violence and crime against humanity be allowed to occur in any of our countries
( [email protected] ) Apr 19, 2004 06:04 PM EDT

Leaders of the World Council of Churches, Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Rwanda, Protestant Council of Rwanda and the All Africa Council of Churches gathered in Kigali, Rwanda for a two-day ecumenical workshop on the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, April 16-18.

By the meeting’s end, the ecumenical and church leaders from across 20 African countries came to an agreement that while the current church effort to bring healing to the victims of the genocide are greatly commendable, the church dedication to Rwanda ten years ago during the genocide was ‘lacking’ to say the least.

"A lot of efforts were made after the tragedy, but we did not do enough in time," said Peter Weiderud, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International affairs during the workshop. "A critique of the role of the WCC and the ecumenical movement before and during the genocide is important".

Weiderud added, however, that, "Although it is clear that the WCC could have done more before and during the Rwandan genocide, that does not mean that such actions could have prevented the genocide".

Such sentiments were summarized in the Kigali Covenant, which was read at a commemorative service held on Sunday evening at Kigali stadium.

"We accept our guilt for inaction during the genocide in Rwanda before God and offer our apology, as some Rwandan churches [have already done], to the people of Rwanda," the document said.

“Never again should such a degree of violence and crime against humanity be allowed to occur in any of our countries," the document continued. “We must build the capacity of our churches in advocacy" and be "proactive in the prevention of conflicts".

At that end, the document challenged "the leadership of churches and governments to feed the minds and souls of their people with love, peace and reconciliatory messages so that painful experiences in human memory are not exploited,” and called on the ecumenical family to assist the victims of the genocide in any way possible.

Throughout the 2-day ecumenical workshop, entitled, “Lasting peace in Africa,” the participants were personally confronted with "the depth of the horror" of "the dark hundred days" that the genocide lasted when they visited the Ntarama Memorial (formerly a Roman Catholic chapel) and the Kigali Memorial Centre.

"We saw the remnants of the genocide in the form of bones, skulls and dilapidated clothing and personal belongings of babies, children, youth and adults. […] We also heard stories of women victims of the genocide who were raped and who today are living with HIV/AIDS and bruised bodies; child-headed households and totally handicapped persons,” the document said.

"The abuse, anger, tension, humiliation, trauma, pain and tears inherent in any genocide experience like that of Rwanda remind us of the event leading to the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ."