From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[WCC News] Rwanda genocide: We didn't do enough in time

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Mon, 19 Apr 2004 11:42:30 +0200

World Council of Churches * Press Update
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 19/04/2004 - pu-04-21

 "We did not do enough in time"
  WCC/CCIA director looks at organization's role during Rwanda genocide

 Free photos available, see below

 Cf. Press Update PU-04-20 of 16 April 2004
 Cf. Press Update PU-04-19 of 14 April 2004
 Cf Press Update  PU-04-18 of 8 April 2004

   "A lot of efforts were made after the tragedy, but we did not do enough
   in time," said Peter Weiderud about the role of the World Council of
   Churches (WCC) and the ecumenical movement in the 1994 genocide in

   Weiderud, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on
   International affairs (CCIA), was addressing a 16-18 April 2004
   ecumenical workshop on "Lasting peace in Africa" that gathered
   participants from all over Africa in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

   Attempting a realistic assessment of the WCC's role as well as that of
   the local churches, he said that "although it is clear that the WCC
   could have done more before and during the Rwandan genocide, that does
   not mean that such actions could have prevented the genocide".

   Yet, in answer to the "painful question: 'Where were the churches during
   the genocide?'", Weiderud affirmed that " a critique of the role of the
   WCC and the ecumenical movement before and during the genocide is

   The point of such a critique is "not to blame, but to help develop
   principles and criteria on how to act in situations when action is
   needed, but when the local churches are not ready or do not agree on the
   action needed" .

   This, according to Weiderud, is a "built-in dilemma" for a membership
   organization like the WCC. "When member churches invite, encourage or
   give support, there is a potential for a strong action". But "when the
   churches are divided,  oppose action from outside or  are part of the
   problem, the space for action is very limited," he explained.

   Speaking on "Religion and ethnicity, gift from God or source of
   conflict?", Weiderud stressed that "It is of growing importance for the
   ecumenical movement to work with member churches" in order "to stimulate
   an inclusive understanding of the role of faith and to vaccinate them
   against an exclusive understanding of themselves" .

   This "vaccination" is essential because, although "religion is normally
   not the source of conflict," when it emphasizes "the exclusiveness and
   primacy of one's own group at the expense of others," it becomes a
   "destructive contribution" that "fuels the conflict, makes it deeper,
   more violent and more difficult to solve" .

   However, according to Weiderud, religion is also capable of a
   "much-needed and constructive contribution" to societies to "de-escalate
   and help the conflict to be solved in a constructive way".

   That is why the ecumenical agenda needs to focus on the potential of
   religion to emphasize "fundamental ethics and humanity," to give "voice
   to the voiceless," to reinforce "the responsibility of the individual,"
   to strengthen "inclusiveness and a deeper sense of hope," and to
   highlight "the importance of the meeting of cultures" .

   Weiderud was part of an ecumenical delegation visiting Rwanda from 16-18
   April, headed by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia.

   Free high-resolution photos of the visit available at: 

For more information contact:
	 Media Relations Office
 tel: (+41 22) 791 64 21 / (+41 22) 791 61 53 

 The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
 more than 120 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, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by
 general secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist church in Kenya.

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