From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
[WCC News] Rwanda genocide: We didn't do enough in time
"WCC Media" <Media@wcc-coe.org>
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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