Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda

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Although Rwanda is among the most Christian countries in Africa, in the 1994 genocide, church buildings became the primary killing grounds. To explain why so many Christians participated in the violence, this book looks at the history of Christian engagement in Rwanda and then turns to a rich body of original national and local-level research to argue that Rwanda's churches have consistently allied themselves with the state and played ethnic politics. Comparing two local Presbyterian parishes in Kibuye prior to the genocide demonstrates that progressive forces were seeking to democratize the churches. Just as Hutu politicians used the genocide of Tutsi to assert political power and crush democratic reform, church leaders supported the genocide to secure their own power. The fact that Christianity inspired some Rwandans to oppose the genocide demonstrates that opposition by the churches was possible and might have hindered the violence.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is far more than a profoundly moving and convincing account of one of the late-twentieth century's defining events. It is indispensable for scholars in fields as diverse as conflict and genocide studies, civil society, and religion generally. Longman's analysis of Rwanda's churches as important repositories of power, and thus inherently political organizations, capable both of buttressing authority and of challenging it, constitutes a huge theoretical advance in conceptualizing the role of religion in public life." - Paul Gifford, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

"The massive involvement of Christian communities in the killing of Tutsi is one of the most disturbing and controversial questions in the background of the Rwandan bloodbath. In this path-breaking inquest, Tim Longman brilliantly illuminates this long-neglected aspect of the Rwandan tragedy. His book stands as a major contribution to our understanding of the less than edifying role of the Church in Rwanda and other genocidal settings." - Rene Lemarchand, Emeritus Professor, University of Florida

"This thoughtful study significantly advances our understanding of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In a bold and nuanced analysis, Longman shows how and why churches linked to the state and imbued with 'a conservative, hierarchical, bigoted version of Christianity' gave moral sanction to violence against Tutsi, making it easier for people to participate in the genocide. Using local case studies, the book elucidates power struggles within churches that mirrored and also shaped conflicts in civil society. This view from below provides valuable insights on the concerns and fears of ordinary people during the turbulent democratization period of early 1990s Rwanda, while Longman's unsettling conclusions constitute a cautionary tale: 'if religious institutions become too closely tied to state power,' he warns, 'they have the capacity to legitimize abhorrent state actions.'" - Catharine Newbury, Five College Professor of Government and African Studies, Smith College

"Longman's book is an important contribution to the emerging micro-level literature on the genocide. It benefits from Longman's long association with the country and his extensive research on the genocide for Human Rights Watch. He uses sources that few scholars have tapped into, namely the communal archives which consists of letters and reports that local authorities wrote to higher ups at the time of events."
Perspectives on Politics, Lee Ann Fujii, George Washington University

"Within a large literature, this book significantly advances the understanding of the Rwandan genocide.... Recommended." - T. P. Johnson, University of Massachusetts Boston, Choice

"This book makes a major contribution to the literature on religion and conflict as well as on the 1994 Rwandan genocide....Longman's long-term engagement with Rwanda, as well as his familiarity with the literature in French and English on the country, has made him one of the leading American experts on the African Great Lakes region and also on religion and conflict....This book should be read by anyone interested in Christianity in Rwanda." - Jennie E. Burnet, University of Louisville, International Journal of African Historical Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521269537
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2011
  • Series: African Studies Series , #112
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 372
  • Sales rank: 992,521
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy Longman is director of the African Studies Center at Boston University, where he also serves as associate professor of political science. From 1996 to 2009, he served as associate professor of political science and Africana studies at Vassar College. He has also taught at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa; the National University of Rwanda in Butare; and Drake University in Des Moines. He has served as a consultant in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo for USAID and the State Department, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Human Rights Watch, for whom he served as director of the Rwanda field office 1995-1996. From 2001 to 2005, he served as a Research Fellow for the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, directing research on social reconstruction in post-genocide Rwanda. His articles have appeared in the African Studies Review, the Journal of Religion in Africa, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Comparative Education Review, the Journal of Genocide Research and America, and he is currently completing a book manuscript titled Memory, Justice, and Power in Post-Genocide Rwanda.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: 1. 'People came to mass each day to pray, then they went out to kill': Christian churches, civil society, and genocide; Part I. 'River of Blood': 2. 'Render unto Caesar and Musinga ...': Christianity and the colonial state; 3. Churches and the politics of ethnicity; 4. 'Working hand in hand': Christian churches and the postcolonial state (1962-1990); 5. 'Giants with feet of clay': the churches and democratization (1990-1992); 6. 'It is the end of the world': Christian churches and genocide (1993-1994); Part II. 'God Has Hidden His Face': 7. Kirinda: local churches and the construction of hegemony; 8. Biguhu: local churches, empowerment of the poor and challenges to hegemony; 9. 'Commanded by the devil': Christian involvement in the genocide in Kirinda and Biguhu; Conclusion: 10. Churches and accounting for genocide.

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