From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[WCC News] Central committee moderator on Rwanda, genocides,

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Thu, 15 Apr 2004 11:18:56 +0200

World Council of Churches
Feature Feat-04-10
For Immediate Use
15 April 2004

"The truth must be told and accepted; the memory must be respected"

Cf. Press Release PR-04-04 of 5 April 2004
Cf. News Updates UP-04-18 and UP-04-19 of 8 and 14 April 2004

Originally expected to be part of the WCC delegation currently visiting Kenya
and Rwanda, His Holiness Aram I, catholicos of Cilicia and moderator of the
WCC central committee, was finally unable to join the delegation. In the
following interview by the WCC Public Information Team he addresses issues
like the role and future of Africa, conditions for healing and
reconciliation, and the relations between religion and violence. (This
material can be freely reproduced. A free high resolution photo is available,
see below.)

Your Holiness, the WCC general secretary is visiting Kenya and Rwanda. What
are the reasons for this visit, and what do you see as the significance of
this event? 

This visit has a profound pastoral and ecumenical significance. First, this
is a concrete expression of the Council's commitment to Africa as this
region, at this juncture of its history, is facing tremendous challenges.
Second, it is a manifestation of the Council's solidarity with the people of
Rwanda as the people of this small African country are involved in a process
of transformation and reconciliation after the genocide of 1994.

The visit to Rwanda comes at the time of the 10th anniversary of the genocide
in that country. That tragedy has had profound human and spiritual
consequences. What contribution do you see the WCC and the ecumenical
movement bringing to the healing of this country?

Healing is essential dimension of the church's ministry. The WCC through its
programmatic activities, through its relationships and partnerships, has
always taken healing very seriously. I believe that the Council can and must
express, in tangible ways, its healing ministry in Rwanda. This could be done
within the framework of the Focus on Africa as well as through other
programmes and actions of the WCC.

Churches are carriers of historical and sometimes of national memory, but are
also called to be communities of healing and forgiveness. How can churches
find the right balance between the need to remember and the need to forgive?

Healing and forgiveness are interconnected and they are integral part of our
Christian vocation. We cannot neglect our past; the memory will always remain
with us, but we can heal and reconcile our memory. Reconciliation is based on
forgiveness and forgiveness must be based on confession. Therefore, it is
confession that generates healing and forgiveness. I don't believe in a cheap
forgiveness and reconciliation. The truth must be told and accepted; the
memory must be respected. 

The restorative justice of the Gospel can sometimes seem very different to
human, legal justice. When legal justice against those who have committed
crimes seems to prevent healing and restoration of community, what attitude
should churches take regarding this process?

I believe in restorative justice where the oppressor and the oppressed come
together in a dialogical inter-action. The ultimate aim of restorative
justice is healing and reconciliation. Therefore, the churches should promote
the kind of juridical-legal system where preventive, punitive and restorative
justice are taken together for the transformation of the whole society. 

In the Armenian genocide, at the beginning of the 20th century, Muslims
killed Christians; in the Holocaust, in the middle of that century,
Christians killed Jews; in the Rwandan genocide, the last one of that
century, Christians killed Christians. What has been the role that religion
in general, and Christianity in particular, has played during the century -
which is seen as one of the most violent periods of human history?

I don't agree with this way of describing some of the genocides of the 20th
century. In the Armenian genocide Muslims did not kill Armenians because they
were Christians. The Ottoman Turkish government organized and executed the
Armenian genocide , exclusively for political purposes, mainly to implement
its political-ideological project of Pan-turanism. Hitler did not organize
the holocaust for religious considerations. Again, he had a
political-ideological project. Of course, in such circumstances, religion may
become a negative factor when it is used for political aims. I believe, that
the misuse of religion is a serious matter that must be dealt with in a
broader perspective in the context of inter-religious dialogue.

How do you personally, as a Christian, make sense of those genocides? 

Genocide is one of the most horrible expressions of violence and terrorism.
It is a crime against humanity. The international community, and in fact all
the religions of the world, cannot accept such crimes. Hence, those who have
perpetrated and may perpetrate such crimes must be called to justice. The
ecumenical movement, through the "Decade to Overcome Violence", must wrestle
with this question.

There is an important regional dimension to the visit, with a focus on peace
in Africa. What is your vision for this continent, in which some see the
seeds of a new hope? Will Africa, with its outstanding rate of church growth,
play a particular role in the future of Christianity in this century? What is
the single most important factor for a lasting peace in Africa?

Africa is becoming an important region for many reasons. The ecumenical
movement must take Africa very seriously. Africa cannot remain on the
periphery of the international community; its problems are our problems, its
dreams our dreams, its struggle our struggle. The ecumenical movement is
called to participate in all processes and actions that are aimed at
establishing lasting peace in Africa.

Free high resolution photo available at: > press corner >
bios and photos  

For further information, please contact Juan Michel, WCC  media relations
officer,  tel: +41 22 791 6153, mobile +41 79 507 6363,  


The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which
meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in
1948 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary
Samuel Kobia from the Methodist Church in Kenya.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home