Ntarama Church bears mute testimony of Rwanda genocide
800,000 people killed in 100 days in 1994
Nobody dared to attack a church prior to 1994 in Rwanda. It's believed that the genocide organizers encouraged the victims to take refuge in the church.
Relatives and visitors passing through pay their respects, placing bouquets on the remains.
Under orders from the Rwandan army and the Interahamwe militia, Hutu gangs systematically set out to massacre all Tutsis, regardless of age or gender. The Ntarama church turned into a charnel house as did hundreds of other churches, stadiums and public gathering places across the country.
Nobody dared to attack a church prior to 1994. It's believed that the genocide organizers encouraged the victims to take refuge in the church.
In the backyard of the Ntarama church, the walls remain smeared with the blood of untold infants.
"I remember corpses in Gisenyi [a town on the border with DR Congo]," Valentine Ndamage, the 26-year-old curator of the memorial site says. "There were bodies everywhere. And the smell. We stayed in Gisenyi for several days. The first day, we spent the night at the College of Gisenyi. There were corpses in all the rooms - my father had to clear one room to create space for us to sleep," he remembered.
The government has been consistent on reconciling the communities. One of the most effective means was the Gacaca court system, where perpetrators and victims sat together to discuss what had happened. The Gacaca closed earlier this month after handling nearly two million cases. More than 50 percent of the cases were successfully concluded, leading to convictions, according to the government.
Many questioned the efficacy of the Gacaca court system. Human rights organizations have raised concerns over the qualification of the judges and lack of proper defense for the accused.
Rwanda has since earned the status of "one of Africa's success stories" has boasted high economic growth rates. Rwanda today is a stable and peaceful nation.
Former Rwandan Minister for Women and Family Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko became the first women to be ever convicted of genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had convicted her on seven of the 11 genocide charges she faced for atrocities committed in Rwanda's southern Butare region in 1994.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Rwanda, genocide, Ntarama Church, Tutsis, Hutus
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