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Posted: Jun 13 2012, 08:48 PM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 23-December 10
Brief introduction of the Jesuits in Rwanda
By Mahame Chrysologue, SJ
* Father Chisologue Mahame was the first Rwandan become a Jesuit priest, he worked for a superior, he must establish the Centre Christus in Kigali, the College of Gisenyi and Butare home and was murdered in 1994 at the Centre Christus. The following is a presentation of the Society of Jesus in Rwanda made July 31, 1986 at the request of other religious congregations.
This is the 1951 date as the beginning of the presence of the Jesuits in Rwanda. King Mutara Rudahigwa Charles had contacted the Jesuits of the Province of southern Belgium to request the establishment of a secondary college of humanities. Father Leon Verwilghen was sent by his province to prepare the foundation and arrived in Rwanda in 1951.
In January 1952 the first students began their studies temporarily to Kabgayi humanities (Episcopal Vicariate of Rwanda). The same year the King granted land to the Jesuits in Gatagara near Nyanza (royal capital of Rwanda). The preparatory work for construction of the college were immediately started on that land, currently occupied the home of the Virgin of the Poor for the Handicapped.
But a few months after the commencement of construction work, for reasons of colonial policy, the Government of the Trusteeship for the Territory of Rwanda-Burundi, decided, much to the displeasure of the King and all Rwandans to transfer building this college to Usumbura in Burundi, the capital of the Government Trusteeship for Rwanda-Burundi. This college, in the minds of authorities Guardianship, must have an interracial college. There are actually among the first students Rwandans, Burundi, Zaire, Europeans and Asians.
The Jesuits were forced to abandon Gatagara and go again the work of exploration and construction of a College in Usumbura (Bujumbura). Meanwhile students enrolled in both countries (Rwanda-Burundi) poursivaient their studies at the Major Seminary of Nyakibanda (in Rwanda), in premises made available to fathers and students moved to Usumbura in new buildings of the College the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, already in 1951, a Grand seminarian who had just completed his studies in philosophy at the Major Seminary of Nyakibanda, Chrysologue Mahame, had asked to enter the Society of Jesus. The first Rwandan Jesuit candidate was admitted to the novitiate in September 1952 in the Mission of Djuma SJ Kwango-Kwilu (Belgian Congo). Since then, other candidates Rwandan followed almost every year.
In September 1966 the novitiate was transferred to Djuma Cyangugu (Rwanda), in a place where the house was built in companion of the Fathers of the College of Bukavu, with Father JM. Cardol, novice master, and A.Bouillot, socius two Rwandans: Augustine and Karekezi Théoneste Nkeramihigo. And the Society of Jesus was again present in Rwanda, after a long hiatus caused by the transfer of the College of the Holy Spirit in Burundi
On February 17, 1969 the Rwandan government grants legal status to "the Association of Religious of the Society of Jesus in Rwanda". Two months later, April 6, 1969, the Fathers Chrysologue Mahame, Leon Verwilghen, Tony Vandenkerckhoven are appointed and sent by the Province of Central Africa for the establishment of a Centre for spiritual, cultural and social in Kigali, the capital of the Republic of Rwanda (now Centre Christus). This Centre would experience a boom for the sessions and retreats. The presence of Jesuits in Rwandan Centre allowed to organize retreats and recollections in the national language.
On September 2, 1974, the Government of Rwanda entrusted the direction and management of the College of Gisenyi in the Society of Jesus, following an agreement signed between both parties. The Fathers Gasenge Jean Marc Van Stratum and Albert Deschrijver are sent to this new apostolate. This College was led successively by the diocesan Abbots, the brothers of Christian education and a secular Rwandan. The Jesuits opened in 1977 the Commercial and Administrative Section.
In October 1980 a fourth Jesuit community is located in Butare for university studies at the University of Rwanda pure Jesuit Scholastics, and various ministries.
In September 1986, the College of Gisenyi, under the direction of Father Alexis Habiyambere moves to a new site, 7 km away from the old, in new buildings, and became a school with three sections of secondary education: Economy, Bio-Chemistry-Physics and Math. Funding for construction of the College was provided by the Belgian Cooperation and the Government of Rwanda.
The Trinity House
By Jean-Claude Michel, SJ
A Kimironko, an area without developing discipline of urban Kigali, Rwanda's capital, there was a house for a big family. Built in semi durable materials on a large plot of land was bought by the Jesuits in 1997. Converted into offices, chapel and five rooms, it housed the services of the Region Rwanda Burundi.
Today,the house has four residents Jesuit Superior of the Region, which is also the Assistant Bursar of Region; a Jesuit Brother in charge of Chancery Services, and the Administrator of the new school St. Ignatius Kibagabaga .. The computers are not idle; working visits succession; cars enter and exit; internet connection is weak but frequent; a good cook does all the household; three successive watchmen at the door and do some cleaning and gardening. A characteristic: the garden is carefully maintained by a team of prisoners (Kimironko prison is located two hundred meters), responsible for develop two adjacent parcels benefiting patients from the prison. Over the years, the Trinity House (house so designated in order to evoke any entity "triple" under the aegis of the Holy Trinity) has become a small pastoral center. Every morning at 6.30 hours a Eucharist together from thirty to fifty people in a chapel overflowing. Every Sunday in the open about two hundred Christians gather for Sunday Mass in connection with the Queen of Peace Parish Remera (two kilometers).
Posted: Jun 23 2012, 07:46 PM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 23-December 10
Rebuilding Rwanda: ten years on
Fr Mark Raper SJ
This article was published in the Australian Financial Review, 2 April 2004.
As many Christians commemorate the Holy Week leading to Easter, thousands of quiet, sad memorials will be held across Rwanda as the people of that country re-enact their own passion story. Ten years ago, on April 6, 1994, a raging genocide was unleashed which claimed more than 800,000 Rwandan lives in 100 days. This densely populated and beautiful central African country was decimated and two million of its people displaced. The world was shocked but also paralysed.
In the year or so before the genocide, I had been on several missions to neighbouring Burundi as the agency I then directed, the Jesuit Refugee Service, had been invited to help displaced people and refugees to return home. With the outbreak of violence in Rwanda, we went to Bukavu in Zaire (now Congo) - at the southern part of Lake Kivu in Rwanda's southwest corner - to prepare for the possible arrival of refugees. The community at a large Jesuit school, Alfajiri College, agreed to assist, though none of us imagined the deluge of humanity that would soon wash over this remote corner of the country.
Once the fury of the conflict had ebbed, I made my way to Rwanda's near deserted capital, Kigali. At our Jesuit retreat house, Centre Christus, I found the blood-soaked room where just months before, on April 7, a group of people had been murdered. Among them were three Jesuits, Innocent Rutagambwa, Chrysologue Mahame and Patrick Gahizi. Patrick was the superior of the Jesuits in Rwanda and director of the local JRS program, helping refugees who had fled Burundi after the assassination of its president the previous October.
I found a spent cartridge that I still have as a relic, along with others from Liberia and Bosnia.
Whenever I chance upon these relics, I search for some meaning to these events. What really happened? Why did it happen? Could something like this happen to us? How could the international community be so quick to respond to the humanitarian tragedy, yet so impotent when it came to preventing it? How can the Rwandan people mourn their losses, find a realistic sense of justice and be reconciled and united as a people?
What did happen? It was portrayed as ethnic conflict, as if that truth was also an explanation. On April 6, a plane carrying Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down as it landed in Kigali. The president, a Hutu, had been preparing, under intense international pressure, to sign into law the Arusha accords. This would bring about a more democratic process and Habyarimana ran the risk of losing his 20-year grip on power. Immediately the Rwandan Armed Forces and Hutu militia (the interahamwe) set up roadblocks and went from house to house, killing Tutsis and moderate Hutu politicians. The next day 10 Belgian soldiers with the UN peacekeeping forces were killed along with the moderate prime minister whom they were assigned to guard.
In these attacks that precipitated the genocide, extremist Hutus first targeted moderate Hutus and other moderate figures, whatever their ethnicity.
Prising open the layers of Rwandan society, one can find factors that help us begin to understand. The withdrawal of colonial power after independence in 1962 accentuated ethnic cleavages which were often manipulated through media propaganda and discrimination in employment practices and education policies. Exclusive ethnic conceptualisations of what it meant to be Rwandan were promoted.
Rwanda's population, some three million in the 1960s, had risen to about 7.5 million in 1994 and its density was among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The new experience of nationalism in Africa rigidified borders and made the natural nomadism of previous centuries impossible. By the mid-1980s family farming plots had been divided as many times as possible, leaving many second, third and fourth sons without an income or a future. At about this point the international market for Rwanda's principal commodity, coffee, collapsed to one half of its former value. Another factor was the growing scourge of HIV/AIDS, which left many young people without the care and direction of their parents.
Since independence the Belgians had intensified their input into education for the Hutu population, therefore many boys and, for Africa, a high proportion of girls, had had the opportunity of secondary school education. So there was a significant population of young people whose hopes and expectations had been raised by their schooling, but who were now uprooted, left landless, jobless and futureless. Rwanda was like a dry forest after a long drought. The desire for power and the precipitating fear provided the spark. Individuals with political aspirations exploited the discontented mass of young people, using radio stations to send them to the hills with a poisoned message of ethnic hatred. Ethnicity and discontent were exploited by individuals for corrupt reasons, allowing the conflict to escalate steadily until the planned and speedily implemented genocide of 1994.
Could the international community have done something to stop the slaughter? With the warnings from NGOs on the ground, couldn't powerful nations have done something? Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian chief commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1993-1994, tried in vain to persuade his superiors (Kofi Annan was then head of UN peacekeeping) to send more troops. He left Rwanda in 1994 with a post-traumatic stress disorder and recently published Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, which gives a first-hand account of the genocide. The reluctance of the US for humanitarian intervention, shaped by its humiliation in Somalia, influenced other powers in their tragic inaction.
What can be done now? The Rwandan people have put enormous energy into reconciliation, rebuilding and overcoming its debilitating history. Last year the Rwandan people cast their votes peacefully, approving a new constitution outlawing incitement to ethnic hatred. There are positive moves to achieve a sense of national unity and a more inclusive, ethnically heterogeneous national identity. Structures and rhetoric are intended to hold the people together as one nation. Despite the pride in these efforts, there is still much grief. Of course people cannot forget what has happened.
Creative attempts to seek justice have been enacted in Rwanda. Because of the immense number of people accused of involvement in the genocide, and because of the small number of people competent to run the existing justice system, many accused were still awaiting trial years after 1994. So a village justice system, gacaca, was set up, to help all Rwandans acknowledge the truth. Last year 40,000 people were released under the gacaca system. It is not only prisoners who are released, but also survivors, who risk being prisoners of the past. It has been important to find a system of justice that will not be so heavy that the whole society is forced to carry its burden.
Rwanda's experience is very particular, but carries echoes of other stories of survival after crisis. In my 20 years with the JRS I came into contact with survivors in many countries, including East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cambodia, Angola and Bosnia. Those who have experienced brutal atrocities have forged a range of emotional and psychological survival tactics. While some survivors choose to forget, others were clear that only by remembering could they recover. Most wanted to know the reasons and to learn every detail about what happened and who was responsible for the disappearance or death of their husbands, mothers, siblings, friends and colleagues. They wanted to bring these people to justice and so begin to put the past behind them. They said, "We don't seek revenge but justice, and the perpetrators have to be responsible for their acts." They want reconciliation but reconciliation with justice. They don't want past events to recur.
In El Salvador I learned that there is a natural progression from truth to justice to reconciliation. Then in Rwanda we learned that one cannot begin to inquire into the truth of what happened until the mourning is complete. And mourning does not end until the bodies are properly buried and the spirits of the dead can rest at peace. As the time for mourning passes, in the calm that follows, it becomes more possible to learn what really happened. Judgements can then be made on the basis of the facts, establishing the truth as much as possible and enabling decisions about reconciliation. Yet while the truth must come out, there is a risk that constant repetition of the stories will cause sentiments to harden.
The immense heaviness of the Rwandan story was from the beginning lightened for me by the qualities of many people whom I met, whether in Rwanda or in the refugee camps. I witnessed great kindness and repeated acts of courage. Hundreds of families took in orphaned children, as the most natural and most African thing to do. Tutsi widows helped their Hutu neighbours prepare food to take to men in prison who may have killed their husbands. In We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, Philip Gourevitch tells the stories of two groups of schoolgirls in Kibuye and Gisenyi, who during an attack on their schools were roused from their sleep and ordered to separate into Hutus and Tutsis. The girls refused, saying they were simply Rwandans, and they were beaten and shot indiscriminately. Gourevitch concludes, "Mightn't we all take some courage from the example of those brave Hutu girls who could have chosen to live, but chose instead to call themselves Rwandans?"
Should we hold memorials, or should we try to forget? No one can tell a grieving widow to forget the love of her life or the child of her flesh. Ten years is a short time for mourning and recovery after such an immense tragedy, and memory is important. But it is important for the Rwandan people to remember also the heroism shown by those girls. And it is important for us, international friends, to know that side of the story too. Rwanda remains poor, the extreme pressure for land remains. Its people deserve our prayers certainly, but also our solidarity in looking to the root causes of the injustices they have suffered and of their grief.
Mark Raper SJ AM is provincial of the Australian Jesuits. From 1990 to 2000 he was international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, based in Rome, and throughout the 1980s he was regional director of JRS for Asia and the Pacific, based in Bangkok.