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Church regains ground as tranquillity matures in Rwanda
by Justus Waimiri
CAPA 040416-8
April 16, 2004

[CAPA - Rwanda] Flashback: Rwanda, April 15, 1994, thousands of corpses are seen floating down the Akagera River into the still waters of Lake Victoria, bodies of children, men and women mercilessly massacred by their fellow countrymen.

The week that is ending marks one of the worst tragedies in present history. The killing of more than 800,000 people in Rwanda 10 years ago is still incomprehensible to millions of people around the world.

Retired Anglican Archbishop, the Most Revd David Gitari, has a personal experience of the tragedy, after being commissioned by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Hon George Carey, to travel to Rwanda to witness firsthand, what was happening, and to report back to the Primates of the Communion.

When CAPA e-bulletin caught up with Archbishop Gitari at his retirement home in Embu town, he curtly described what he saw in Rwanda as “very sad and frightening”.

He remembers one church he visited in Gahini area, where 4,000 people who had sought refuge were all killed by militant people wielding machetes, guns and poisoned arrows. Amazingly, one woman survived by hiding herself underneath thousands of decomposing corpses.

“Seeing and hearing this traumatised woman, one could not believe the atrocities people could commit against their fellow countrymen,” says Archbishop Gitari.

The retired Archbishop, who was accompanied by former Anglican Church of Kenya Provincial Secretary, Ven John Kago, and Bishop Jonathan Ruhumuliza, visited many mass graves that left them petrified.

Since most of the diocesan Bishops had fled their stations, a number of people had declared themselves Bishops. The Gitari team had to talk to them about the procedures of election and consecration of Bishops.

It was only after a report was compiled that the Anglican Communion and other international bodies came to terms with the enormity of the genocide.

But today, tranquillity is gradually flowing into the East African nation of 10 million people. The gacaca (traditional) courts are offering an opportunity for the people to confess their involvement in the killings, and many have come forward.

The Anglican Church in Rwanda is also now slowly regaining lost ground after the war.

There are presently over 600,000 Anglican members spread in nine dioceses across the country, reflecting a steady growth from the time of the genocide, during which thousands of Christians were butchered and many fled to neighbouring countries. Churches are now being reconstructed after buildings were destroyed.

The Church is also actively involved in the reconstruction of Rwanda, with the Anglican Primate of Rwanda, the Most Revd Emmanuel Kolini, chairing the Interfaith Commission for Reintegration of Rwanda.