Priests convicted over genocide to retain titles

Saturday May 28 2016
rwa pic

Victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide at the Genocide Memorial in Nyamata, inside the Catholic church where thousands were slaughtered. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Catholic Church in Rwanda has declined to strip some of its clergy suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide of their titles as demanded by the government.

Last week, the head of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), Fidele Ndayisaba challenged faith-based groups to strip members suspected or found guilty of taking part in the genocide, of titles such as “Father, Pastor or Sheikh.”

The Catholic Church, which has been openly accused of playing a prominent role in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, is adamant on the matter, saying that the titles are earned and can only be revoked in rare circumstances.

The development is the latest bone of contention between the Catholic Church, the most dominant religious group with over 44 per cent of the total population, and the government.

The church remains unyielding about apologising for its members who took part in the mass massacres and for the thousands killed inside churches and church compounds where they had sought refuge when all hell broke loose.

READ: Catholic Church pressured to say sorry


“We still have many priests, pastors and sheikhs who were found guilty of genocide crimes and crimes against humanity but most of them still hold onto their tittles wherever they are, including prisons, where they continue to be referred to with these otherwise honourable titles,” Mr Ndayisaba told a gathering of religious leaders on May 18.

“This sows confusion among their followers and Rwandans in general, who ask themselves, how can someone who was supposed to serve God and guide his people commit such crimes and still have the title?” he asked.