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What happened in Rwanda was an example of hatred incarnate. Says Christian Cardinal Tumi

The Archbishop of the Douala Archdiocese, Christian Cardinal Tumi, was in Rwanda recently on a mission on behalf of the Episcopal conference of Africa. On his return, he talked with Catholic journalist, Martin Jumbam about his visit. Exerpts from their conversation.

Eminence, you have just come back from Rwanda, what was the purpose of your visit to that country?

During the recent meeting of the Symposium of Africa Bishops for Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), I was designated to visit Rwanda, basically for three reasons. First, to let the Christians of Rwanda know that we are praying for them and with them for peace in their country. Secondly, to express our solidarity with the whole of the nation, that we are with them in their sufferings. And thirdly, to thank the church of Rwanda and the Christians of that Church, especially those who preferred to sacrifice their love for their neighbour. It's truly amazing how, in the midst of the madness that engulfed that land, many of them preferred to die, and did die, to save others.

How did the Church in Rwanda receive your message of good-will?

The Episcopal conference of Rwanda was touched that all the bishops of Africa could have sent me on mission to see what happened in their land and tell them what we, the bishops of the continent, think. That is why no sooner had I arrived there than I had a meeting with all the bishops who were then in the country - about seven of them out of an Episcopal Conference of nine bishops. They organised meetings in about four or five dioceses where I met the bishops, the priests and lay faithful to whom I transmitted the message of the Episcopal Coferences of Africa and Madagascar.

Did you meet any politica leader in the country?

Yes, I saw the Minister in charge of Relations at the Presidency and the Minister of social Affairs to whom I expressed the sympathy of the Church with what took place in their country. I told them that what happened in their country concerned all of us as we have to make sure that it doesn't happen again either in Rwanda or anywhere else. They expressed their desire to work hand in hand with the Church to ensure that the mad events of 1994 never recur. The Minister for Women's and Social Affairs, was especially explicit and she told me she counts very much on what the Church can do as so help many who are suffering in her country.

How is Rwanda recovering from the genocide of 1994?

At the moment, from what I experienced, it is difficult to get anything out of the ordinary citizen in Rwanda. I had the impression that many are too traumatised by what happened and dont want to talk about it. Many are asking themselves what really happened and why it did happen, as it was definitely unnatural. I was told that there were cases where parents killed their children, children their parents, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, just because they were from different ethnic groups.

What has the Church been doing to reassure and comfort her faithful?

The Church is now mediating on the event. I was reading a document written by a group of priests who went to see what good they can do to get out of this event. They're trying to determine what went wrong; so they have decided to mediate every week on the passages of the Gospel, to see how they can recover from the event and how they can profit from their witnesses. So, I think the Church is very spiritually conscious of what should be done and what should be avoided for the future. Ofcourse, the government, in my opinion, at least from what I could see, is doing everything possible to help the poor, to rehabilitate those who were coming back to the country. In the continent, there are very many international organisations working hand in hand with the Rwandan government.
I was surprised to see the number of Cameroonians who are there on mission from the United Nations. I met about 30 of them in Kigali, Lawyers, medical officers, bankers,etc.

The Church that is in Rwanda lost many priests, two bishops and an archbishop in the massacre. How is she coping in terms of clergy?

There is definitely a shortage of priests at the moment. About a hundred priests perished in that massacre and quite a number are out of the country, they say, for their security. There are some dioceses that do have enough priests, but there are quite a number of seminarians, so the hope is there for the future. I visited the Major Seminary which counts more than 200 students. New bishops have been appointed, there were five Sees that were vacant, there is still one that is vacant but which has an administrator. The Archbishop of Kigali was killed and so were two other bishops and a number of priests. But I think there is hope as quite a number of missionaries are coming back to play the role that they played before the events.

What lesson can we, in the Cameroons, draw from the Rwandan event?

Many people in Rwanda now agree that what took place was a sign of hatred incarnate. Therefore the opposite should be proposed to all of us: love for neighbour, whatever their origin, whatever their ethnic differences. We are all human beings and have one father: God our Father. We should see each other therefore as brothers and sisters of the one family of God.


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