Rwanda genocide survivor to visit diocese

Originally Appeared in : 9904-2/14/19

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On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down seconds before landing in Kigali. Absolute chaos descended upon the central African country of Rwanda for the next 100 days as almost one million people were massacred. The genocide was perpetuated by members of the Hutu majority tribe against the Tutsi minority. Decades of vitriolic speech, systematic discrimination, and occasional violence erupted into an unimaginable disaster. Corpses bearing signs of rape and machetes littered the countryside. The international community evacuated and took no action to stop the massacre. The genocide ended when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the country, and genocide perpetrators fled into neighboring countries.


A few years ago I traveled to the town of Cyangugu in southwestern Rwanda. After settling in the diocesan retreat center, I walked down a mud road toward the cathedral which overlooked the beautiful Lake Kivu, which separates Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the last day of the three-day visit, I went to the Center for the Secret of Peace. Hundreds of faithful were gathering for a healing Mass which was slated to occur that evening. The faithful who gathered on top of this peaceful green hill by Lake Kivu would sleep outside because the diocese had not yet raised enough funds to provide accommodations. 


I now look forward to meeting Father Ubald Rugirangoga, a priest of the Diocese of Cyangugu and director of the Center for the Secret of Peace, who will spend some days in our Diocese of Savannah. Father Ubald lost over 80 family members and over 45,000 parishioners during the genocide. For many years now he has felt called by God to preach healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation in his country and abroad. During his visit to both Augusta and Savannah in March, Father Ubald will share his experience of the genocide and the hope that now fills him, through a brand-new documentary and conversation. He will also celebrate a Healing Mass. There have been many documented cases of physical and spiritual healings in the healing services he often conducts where thousands are present. 


The Catholic Church has strived to be an agent of reconciliation in Rwanda, and the work of Father Ubald has been instrumental in achieving it. The Rwandan government seeks him out for advice on forgiveness and reconciliation as the country continues to rebuild while the atrocities of years ago continue to haunt its population today. The mission of the Center for the Secret of Peace is to foster healing and reconciliation not only in Rwanda but in neighboring Congo and Burundi which have also been affected by the devastation of war. 
During my visit to Rwanda I asked Bishop Alexis Habiyambere, Bishop emeritus of Nyundo, what is the one thing the Catholic Church in Rwanda can contribute to the universal Church. He quickly answered, “We lived difficult moments in Rwanda with the genocide. I believe that we have seen that the Holy Spirit, which guides the Church, gave us hope and courage. You should not be discouraged. Our Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. During difficult moments, we must not grow discouraged. We must believe.” The message of Father Ubald is rooted in this same hope that springs forth from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Come to learn and experience the healing power of God through the witness and prayer of Father Ubald Rugirangoga. 


Father Pablo Migone is chancellor of the Diocese of Savannah and resides in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah.

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