In my morning devotion today I read about the start of the genocide in Rwanda on 7 April 1994 (just 20 days before South Africa’s first democratic elections on 27 April 1994).
Here is the summary of those events from “Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals”:
‘On April 7, 1994, a civil war broke out in Rwanda as Hutu extremists began brutally killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Over the next one hundred days, nearly a million people were killed in the worst occurrence of genocide since the Holocaust. An estimated 75 percent of the Tutsis living in Rwanda were murdered.’
The following story is told from after the genocide:
‘When Cardinal Roger Etchegary visited Rwanda on behalf of the pope in 1994, he asked the assembled church leaders, “Are you saying that the blood of tribalism is deeper than the waters of baptism?” One leader answered, “Yes, it is.”’
How sad! Two things were clear in Rwanda. First, this genocide was an ethnic crime - the violence was motivated by hatred and distrust among people of different ethnicities and cultures. Second, however, is that 98% of Rwandans (perpetrators and victims) were Christian. How could that be? That followers of the Prince of Peace could hate one another so much? How could it be that those who live by the way of truth could be so easily misled about their sisters and brothers?
We must choose a different way. We must choose a way of peace and reconciliation. We cannot choose against our fellow humans. By choosing for one another we choose for the common good.
Pray for us in South Africa. We too are a largely Christian nation in which people choose against each other. Here is another quote from “Common Prayer”:
'Charles Péguy said, “We must be saved together. We cannot go to God alone; else he would ask, ‘Where are the others?’ ”’
Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch