By Julia Bloechl
The final day of the conference, “Reinventing Theology in Post-Genocide Rwanda: Challenges and Hopes” was focused on the sixth and final theme: “Challenges and Signs of Hope.” The first speaker was Fr. Jean Baptiste Ganza, SJ whose talk was entitled, “The Invisible Hand: Twenty-Five Years of Miracles Seen and Unseen.” He began by suggesting that the theologians Rwanda needs today are those who hunger for God’s self-revelation and live with all of their senses open to his miracles. He outlined four examples of miracles to which he witnessed in Rwanda all of which demonstrated the possibility for growth, reconciliation, and rebirth in the country, after the genocide. He concluded by suggesting that a new church is possible in Rwanda and its foundation depends on God’s invisible hand.
Fr. Eugène Niyonzima, SAC, spoke next. His talk was entitled, “To be a Priest in Post-Genocide Rwanda.” The core message of his talk was that being a priest in Rwanda requires one to be a witness to the truth, good and love. He outlined this idea by approaching two questions: What did Rwandan priests learn in and after the genocide and how should the Rwandan Church consider priestly formation in this millennium? In response to the first question, Niyonzima suggested that priests must not be excessively bound to politics though they must recognize that the church must intervene in politics when the common good is at stake. In addition, priests have learned that the foundations of the priesthood are Christ and his redemptive cross. In response to the second question, Niyonzima suggested that priests must be trained to love the truth. They must also experience moral conversions through which they are capable of doing good, even unto suffering. These are all important foundations for the future of the Church, particular with respect to the priesthood. Next, Augustin Karekezi, SJ, gave a talk entitled “Three Jesuits at Chentre Christus: Chrysologue Mahame, Patrick Gahizi, and Innocent Rutagambwa: Imagining the Jesuit of the Future.” His talk reflected on the lives and works of three jesuits killed at Centre Christus on 7 April, 1994. In his reflection, he highlighted the great justice and deep witness to Christ of the men who became victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Fr. Karekezi emphasized that these three men were just few among the many wonderful people who lost their lives in the atrocities. He concluded by emphasizing that the future calls the Jesuits not to be calm and to announce the Gospel where it is not known.
The next panel began with Dr. Katharina Peetz whose talk was entitled, “Listening to Ordinary Rwandans Searching for a New Theology after the Genocide.” She reflected on the observations she made in interacting with survivors, perpetrators, and those who did not live through, but still feel the effects of, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Peetz emphasized the idea that many see the Genocide as having been the work of Satan, mostly out of explanation for their share of responsibility in it. She also discussed the prevalence of negative views of the religious other. Peetz suggested that forgiveness should not be taught as a condition for God’s love, which she said, creates a certain pressure on wounded hearts that otherwise needed their own time to heal and reconcile with the other. Under these principles, she suggested that we must move forward with a mentality of hope that leaves no one unheard on the healing journey. Peetz was followed by Léocadie Lushombo whose talk was called, “The Primacy of the Christian Faith: Grounds for Hope and Challenges in the Aftermath Genocide Context of Rwanda.” She spoke on how Catholics in Rwanda should pursue their Catholic convictions in the wake of the genocide. The premise of her talk was that the apostles’ resistance to the Sanhedrin (Act 4: 18-21) was theo-political. Because of their devotion to God, they refused those political commands that conflicted with His will. She highlighted the fact that the Genocide resulted from political conflict, not ethnic. We must be guided by Jesus in disobeying an unjust culture so as to create a culture of cohesion and not complacence.
The final speaker of the conference was Hon. Euthalie Nyirabega whose talk was entitled, “From Victim to Leading Actor.” She gave a testimony on her experiences during and after the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. She talked about how the Gacaca helped her live her renascent Christian faith back in her much feared home village. In reconciliation she said she has learned the value of communication and solidarity. Finally, she spoke of resilience. Nyirabega suggested that in overcoming evil, we can build and discover the depth of our own strength.
To close the three day, Elisée Rutagambwa, SJ, and Marcel Uwineza, SJ, made some last remarks. Rutagambwa noted that the conference truly was a gift from God and served to transform all participants and presenters. Both Uwineza and Rutagambwa expressed their gratitude to all who made the conference possible. These three days were immensely meaningful in the project of growth for the Rwandan church. We thank all who made this such a powerful experience, most especially, God.