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Religions 2018, 9(2), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9020034

From “a Theology of Genocide” to a “Theology of Reconciliation”? On the Role of Christian Churches in the Nexus of Religion and Genocide in Rwanda

1
Institute for Social Ethics, Zurich University, Zollikerstr. 117, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland
2
Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch 7599, South Africa
Received: 13 December 2017 / Revised: 17 January 2018 / Accepted: 18 January 2018 / Published: 23 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Genocide)
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Abstract

This paper explores the role of a specific religious actor, namely Christian churches, in the nexus of religion and genocide in Rwanda. Four factors are identified that point to the churches’ complicity in creating and sustaining the conditions in which the 1994 genocide could occur, leaving up to one million people dead. These factors include the close relationship between church and state, the churches’ endorsement of ethnic policies, power struggles within the churches, and a problematic theology emphasizing obedience instead of responsibility. Nevertheless, the portrayal of all Christian churches as collaborators of the genocide appears too simplistic and one-sided. Various church-led initiatives for peace and reconciliation prior to the genocide indicate a more complex picture of church involvement. Turning away from a “Theology of Genocide” that endorsed ethnic violence, numerous Christian churches in Rwanda now propagate a “Theology of Reconciliation.” A modest empirical case study of the Presbyterian Church (EPR) reveals how their “Theology of Reconciliation” embraces the four dimensions of theology, institutions, relationships, and remembrance. Based on their own confession of guilt in the Detmold Confession of 1996, the EPR’s engagement for reconciliation demonstrates religion’s constructive contribution in Rwanda’s on-going quest for sustainable peace and development. View Full-Text
Keywords: genocide; religion; Rwanda; Christian Churches; violence; peace; Reconciliation genocide; religion; Rwanda; Christian Churches; violence; peace; Reconciliation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Schliesser, C. From “a Theology of Genocide” to a “Theology of Reconciliation”? On the Role of Christian Churches in the Nexus of Religion and Genocide in Rwanda. Religions 2018, 9, 34.

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