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April 13th, 2014
07:25 AM ET

Forgiving the unforgivable in Rwanda

By Tim Townsend, special to CNN

(CNN) - When the killing began in earnest, Steven Gahigi fled his home in the Bugesera district of Rwanda to neighboring Burundi.

By the time he returned the next year, 52 members of his family were dead. Most of them, including his sister, were slaughtered in the first week of the 20th century’s final genocide.

This week, Rwanda began commemorating the 20 years that have passed since the mass murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which continued for 100 days and left at least 800,000 dead.

Gathering in a packed soccer stadium in Kigali, Rwandans re-enacted the horrific events of 1994. President Paul Kagame said his country had “a reason to celebrate the normal moments of life, that are easy for others to take for granted."

When Gahigi returned to Rwanda after the genocide, he had nothing: no family, no home. Eventually, he moved past his anger and entered a Christian seminary.

In 1999, he began visiting Rilima Prison in Bugesera, the new home to thousands of the génocidaires, the men who wielded the machetes. In Rilima he met the band of 15 who killed his sister.

At first, the prisoners thought he had been sent by the government – a spy in a clerical collar – to investigate their crimes. Even when they were satisfied that Gahigi wasn’t a spy, they were skeptical of his motives. Why would this man come to their prison to preach when he knew what they had done?

But one of Gahigi’s messages resonated: It was possible for perpetrators to be forgiven. More génocidaires began attending his teachings, including the band of 15. He became their pastor.

While researching a book about prison chaplains a few years ago, I visited Kigali and spoke to pastors like Gahigi.

According to the Rev. Deogratias Gashagaza, executive director of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, there are 36,000 genocide perpetrators still serving time in one of Rwanda’s 13 prisons. That’s down from a high of 130,000 in 1998, according to Human Rights Watch.

Fifteen of Prison Fellowship Rwanda’s 35 chaplain volunteers had family members murdered during the genocide.

When Gahigi returned after the genocide, he met Bishop John Rucyahana, a former Anglican bishop and current president of the country’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, which was established in 1999 with the goal of “reconstructing the Rwandan identity.”

“I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country,” Rucyahana wrote in his book, “The Bishop of Rwanda.”

“It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.”

Rwanda is overwhelmingly Christian: 50% Catholic and about 44% Protestant and other Christian traditions. The tensions that led to the genocide were between ethnic groups, with the majority Hutu largely acting against the minority Tutsi.

Scholars have since written that Christian leaders aided in the genocide by giving moral support to the perpetrators’ cause.

Forgiveness on the scale suggested by Rucyahana was difficult for Gahigi, even after he graduated from seminary.

“My people died innocently,” he would tell himself. “Why should I have to go and help the people who killed them?”

Eventually Gahigi came to see his own survival as a calling. Instructions came, he said, in his sleep.

He had a dream about a mob beating Jesus as he hung on the cross. A voice told Gahigi, “Those people beating Jesus are the ones Jesus helped. They killed your countrymen and your family, but you can help them.”

When he woke up, he was crying.

“I cried all night, but when the crying stopped, I felt light and love,” Gahigi said.

He believed then that he had the power to forgive and to help others forgive. He began preaching reconciliation, and he sought out the prisoners who killed his family.

“That was Jesus’ mission,” Gahigi told me. “To forgive the sins of all men.”

The wrong question

One of the most horrifying of Rwanda’s genocide memorial sites is in a small, red brick church building outside Kigali in the Bugesera district.

Twenty years ago this Tuesday, Hutu government-backed Interahamwe paramilitary troops arrived at a Catholic church in Ntarama and slaughtered more than 5,000 people who had barricaded themselves inside.

The annihilation of the Tutsi had been underway for more than a week.

For 10 years after the genocide, the victims’ bodies lay where they had fallen inside the church. Visitors to the Ntarama memorial had to jump from pew to pew to avoid the dead.

In 2011, I visited Ntarama with then-U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Stuart Symington, and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp.

Our guide told us that those who were murdered had come to the church because they believed they would be safe.

“Most Christians didn’t understand at the time that they could be killed in a church,” he said.

Eventually, their bones were moved to a large rack at the back of the church. There were shelves for hundreds of skulls, and others for hundreds of femurs. Shoes were stacked by the altar.

Clothing hung from the building’s rafters and along its walls. Rags orange from years of Rwandan dust lined the floors between pews where they once clothed bodies.

A famous quote that has come to sum up Rwanda’s two-decade effort at reconciliation was printed on a purple and white banner and strung across the sanctuary: “If you knew me and you really knew yourself, you would not have killed me.”

Outside the church, near a giant hole in one wall where the perpetrators broke through, chickens pecked the red ground.

Both Symington and Rapp had been to Ntarama before. Prior to his appointment to lead the State Department’s war crimes office in 2009, Rapp was a prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

He leaned down to wipe dirt from the blade of a machete, like the bones inside, left where it landed 20 years ago.

As our group continued on ahead of us, I asked Rapp what massacre sites like Ntarama meant to him, as someone who had worked for years to bring justice to the dead.

We were standing outside a church, after all. Where was God when this massacre was taking place?

“In my mind’s eye, I picture the bricks giving way and the people inside just waiting to die and I imagine the screams,” Rapp said. “But I never heard, in any of the recounting of what happened here, about people begging not to die.”

He paused, still moving dirt with his shoe.

“Asking where God was in all this is the wrong question,” he continued. “The right question is, ‘Where was man?’”

The Nazis' chaplains 

At the time of my visit to Rwanda, much of the prison chaplains’ work was funded by Norwegian Church Aid, which has its roots in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

In October 1945, as the world was confronting evidence of another genocide, Norway’s churches organized a way to share food aid coming into former Allied countries – France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece – with the destitute German people.

One month later, in Nuremberg, the Allies shared something else with Germans.

The U.S. Army assigned two of its own chaplains to minister to Hitler’s lieutenants, then on trial in the destroyed city’s Palace of Justice.

The Rev. Henry Gerecke, a Lutheran minister from St. Louis, and the Rev. Sixtus O’Connor, a Catholic priest from upstate New York, were asked to kneel down with the architects of the Holocaust and minister to them as they answered to the world for crimes against humanity.

Among them were Hermann Goering, Hans Frank, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Rudolf Hess: 21 Nazis in all.

Both American chaplains served during the war, and each had seen the Germans' crimes up close in the months since VE Day.

Gerecke had been to Dachau several times while stationed with the 98th General Hospital in Munich over the summer of 1945.

O’Connor had helped liberate Austria’s Mauthausen concentration camp in May 1945 as a chaplain with the 11th Armored Division. He conducted nearly 3,000 burial services in three weeks there.

That these two chaplains then spent a year in the Nuremberg prison, hoping to bring Nazis back to the Christian faith before they were executed, repulsed many Americans.

The concept of forgiveness in Christianity and Judaism is very different, but in both traditions the act of returning the wrongdoer to the good is central.

In Judaism that return requires the repentance of the wrongdoer and the participation – the forgiveness – of the person who was wronged.

Justice, as Princeton University scholar Leora Batnitzky has said, may be the supreme Jewish virtue. If the wrong committed was murder, forgiveness is impossible – from the murdered, but also from God.

Christian tradition says forgiveness precedes repentance.

Christians believe God has already forgiven them, atoned for their sins in the crucifixion of Jesus. But that concept must be strained by genocide.

Could Christians really believe that their God died to forgive those who conceived of a place like Mauthausen, where 100,000 people were tortured and murdered between 1939 and 1945?

Or like another church near Kigali, in Nyamata, where nearly 11,000 people barricaded themselves before the Interahamwe penetrated the walls, and where spattered blood still streaks the altar cloth.

How could Gerecke forgive Goering, who put Hitler’s “final solution” into place?

How could Gahigi forgive the 15 men who killed his sister using what he called “farming equipment”?

The answer is that these chaplains weren’t personally forgiving evil, but attempting a transformation. The evil deed isn’t forgiven. But, these chaplains believed, an evildoer can be returned from darkness to the good of his own light.

'Kill him after'

The chaplains of Prison Fellowship Rwanda have been attempting that transformation for nearly 20 years.

Like Gahigi, Gashagaza was out of the country during the genocide. When he returned home, his community was gone: 25 family members murdered.

His sister, her husband and their seven children had been killed. Like Gahigi, he was confused and angry.

“I was thinking, ‘Why?’” he said. “’Why did people die like animals? How and why?’”

A year later, Gashagaza was one of the first pastors to go into a Rwandan prison, this one in Butare in southern Rwanda near the Burundi border, and filled with 15,000 génocidaires. He was convinced God would protect him.

“So, I entered the prison, and the prisoners said, ‘Oh! How a guy like this man is still alive? Why did he not die? Kill him now!’” Gashagaza recounted.

“One said, ‘Please, let him finish his preaching. Kill him after.’ Inside my heart, I have a quiet prayer: ‘God, you are the one who sent me here. Protect me. This is not easy.’”

Gashagaza said he thought of Jesus on the cross.

“He said, ‘I forgive those who betrayed me, those who killed me.’ I gave them this message, and I told them, ‘Even though you are perpetrators of genocide, God still loves you. He needs your heart. He needs your change.’”

The prison chaplains have also led an effort at reconciliation – a series of discussions between génocidaires and survivors on topics such as confession, forgiveness and repentance.

If it’s obvious what the perpetrators get out of such meetings, it’s more difficult to understand how a survivor would benefit. In the end, the answer is surprisingly simple.

“Sleep,” Gashagaza told me. “Experiencing forgiveness gives peace.”

Tim Townsend is the author of “Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis,” which was published last month.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Christianity • Crime • Death • Discrimination • Pastors • Prejudice • Rwanda • Violence

soundoff (206 Responses)
  1. zendraxus

    Wow....just wow.

    i really cant say what id do in this case....forgive is something you do for accidental, unintended deaths...murder x 52.....no that's in another realm completely.

    it sounds like more than a few would be happy to make him 53.....

    I don't know .....

    April 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  2. johnpmac32

    How to end violence, war, and genocide...

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVFa6Wtuxu8&w=640&h=360]

    April 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      I love the way he giggles when talking about waking up and killing someone. This is beyond sad. Who are these “scientists” conducting the studies? It reminds me of the old marketing tactic…”2 out of 3 doctors agree….” What doctors, veterinarians?

      April 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
  3. Concert in an Egg

    The universe is flat like a piece of paper. Next to our universe is a second, perhaps a third, perhaps an infinite number of universes. It makes sense that if one universe is left handed, there is another that is right handed. I know what you are thinking…so Egg dude, what caused the Big Bang? Well I wish I knew, but using undiscovered evidence I have come to the conclusion that it was caused be the wind. Using string theory, we can surmise that two sheets of universe touching (matter and anti-matter in this example) would cause a big bang. I little cosmic breeze might bring the two branes together causing the event. Another possibility would be the shape of an alternate universe in the multiverse. If we are flat, but another universe is curved in on itself it might simple touch at a single point. It would look like a speck of pepper to us, but it could be the end of all things.

    April 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
  4. johnpmac32

    Alan Watts: What to tell children about God and The Universe

    There was never a time when the world began, because it goes round and round like a circle, and there is no place on a circle where it begins. Look at my watch, which tells the time; it goes round, and so the world repeats itself again and again. But just as the hour-hand of the watch goes up to twelve and down to six, so, too, there is day and night, waking and sleeping, living and dying, summer and winter. You can’t have any one of these without the other, because you wouldn’t be able to know what black is unless you had seen it side by side with white, or white unless side by side with black.
    In the same way, there are times when the world is, and times when it isn’t, for if the world went on and on without rest forever and ever, it would get horribly tired of itself. It comes and it goes. Now you see it; now you don’t. So because it doesn’t get tired of itself, it always comes back again after it disappears. It’s like your breath: it goes in and out, in and out, and if you try to hold it in all the time you feel terrible. It’s also like the game of hide-and-seek, because it’s always fun to find new ways of hiding, and to seek for someone who doesn’t always hide in the same place.
    God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, He has no one but himself to play with. But He gets over this difficulty by pretending that He is not Himself. This is His way of hiding from Himself. He pretends that He is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way He has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when He wakes up they will disappear.
    Now when God plays hide and pretends that He is you and I, He does it so well that it takes Him a long time to remember where and how He hid Himself. But that’s the whole fun of it-just what He wanted to do. He doesn’t want to find Himself out too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be Himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self-the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.
    Of course, you must remember that God isn’t shaped like a person. People have skins and there is always something outside our skins. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t know the difference between what is inside and outside our bodies. But God has no skin and no shape because there isn’t any outside to Him. . . . The inside and the outside of God are the same. And though I have been talking about God as ‘He’ and not ’she,’ God isn’t a man or a woman. I didn’t say ‘it’ because we usually say ‘it’ for things that aren’t alive.
    God is the Self of the world, but you can’t see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can’t see your own eyes, and you certainly can’t bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.
    You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that He isn’t really doing this to anyone but Himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It’s the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world.

    ~Alan Watts

    April 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
    • Concert in an Egg

      Eastern philosophical bullshit.

      April 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
    • igaftr

      Why tell them any gods exist when that cannot be verified, and there is no evidence of such an ent!ty?

      April 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
    • socal4me

      Looking at the Planet Earth from the edge of the solar system, we are nothing more than a microscopic speck of dust,
      And on the speck of dust, if you look very closely, you’ll see tiny little humans walking about, doing what humans do...
      Compared to the rest of the galaxy and universe for that matter, the Human Race, doesn't appear to have much of a presence,
      To the best of our knowledge, we inhabit, just 1 planet...
      Some might even say that we are somewhat insignificant compared to the rest of the cosmos
      Yet, for some unknown reason, the “Almighty” chose us to share his thoughts, and secrets regarding his greatest achievements, including the creation of Earth and the rest of the Universe as we know it...
      Yes, you & me, Mr & Mrs Simpleton... Right here, on good ole Planet Earth...
      Privileged to know, who, when, & how it all came about,
      We are humble to the fact we we’re chosen to pass down this valuable information from 2,000 years ago, from generation, to generation...
      Sure does say a lot about the human race...

      April 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        I do think it is fair to say though, that despite how insignificant we appear to be, we are learning a lot about the universe and how it works. We understand about 4% of what we see. Better than nothing.

        April 13, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
      • igaftr

        socal
        "the “Almighty” chose us to share his thoughts, and secrets regarding his greatest achievements, including the creation of Earth and the rest of the Universe as we know it...

        When did "he" do that? I see a book written by men, but there are no signs or evidence of any gods. There is evidence it was all made up by men.

        So where is any "almighty" do this? Please show your proof.

        April 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
  5. Concert in an Egg

    The United States has committed a form of genocide against young American black men by creating a set of conditions to see them largely incarcerated. They make up 40% of the almost 2.1 million male inmates. When killing is frowned on, try the next best thing I guess. We are at war in this country too.

    April 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
    • valdr89

      Maybe they are incarcerated because they are responsible for over half of all murders, despite being a minority group. Take responsibility for your own failures.

      April 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        Under the same economic conditions, it could be you sitting in a cell if the country wasn't run by the rich.

        April 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
        • zendraxus

          No Concert,

          Regardless what happens to us, the choice is still ours, millions upon millions are struggling and do not turn to crime and murder. Is it frustrating watching the fat cats live it up? yes! ...could they be banking on this passivity? most certainly. I don't have the answers here...but killing each other isn't it...there is no excuse for that at all.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Curious how you just assume they are all killers.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
        • zendraxus

          give it a reread- i did say crime in there somewhere:)

          nowhere did i say they were all murders...but it IS the biggest issue facing the inner cities in the US.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          You said it, INNER CITIES. Perhaps we have identified a problem that needs to be addressed?

          April 13, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
        • zendraxus

          Oh yes, and im right there with you on economic stress being the cause – what im saying is how you respond to that stress is up to the individual.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
    • tallulah131

      Yes, ours is a culture with an extremely uneven playing field, but we still get to choose how we live our lives. Success takes a LOT of work. Crime is easy. Those who choose the easy road only make it harder for those who are working hard for a better life. Making excuses doesn't change that simple fact.

      April 13, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        tallulah131, the inner city economic conditions create a factory for criminal behavior. You are disregarding all the factors that lead to crime by young black men and trivializing the issue.

        April 13, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
        • tallulah131

          You are making excuses. It takes a lot of hard work to overcome adversity, but people have done it. Those who chose the easier road of crime make success more difficult for those who are working for a better life.

          April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          We can agree to disagree on this. I understand what you are saying naturally, but I just feel you are being naïve.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
        • tallulah131

          I came from nothing and worked very hard for everything I have. I am not naive. You can make excuses all day, but it won't make a single life better. People can only succeed when they are willing to do the work for themselves, despite the odds.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          @tallulah131

          We are all very impressed I'm sure. Do some homework.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  6. Concert in an Egg

    “Asking where God was in all this is the wrong question,” he continued. “The right question is, ‘Where was man?’”

    That is the correct question since there are no gods, at least not any that give a shit...

    April 13, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
  7. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    "Christians believe God has already forgiven them, atoned for their sins in the crucifixion of Jesus. But that concept must be strained by genocide."

    The people who committed the genocide either were never Christians, or had turned apostate. Maybe they were a mixture of both.

    The problem of the "Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland" and the "Katholische Kirche" was (is) that they did (do) not preach the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore the Protestants and the Catholic Germans committing the genocide were only half-Christians because they did not really know the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Real gospel: Jesus sacrife was not only an atonement, but ALSO a work of deliverance. Jesus sacrifice has two sides: To set us free from sins, and to atone our sins. We are only real Christians when we accept both sides of Jesus' sacrifice. If we deny the divine relief in daily life, Jesus sacrifice will not be of any benefit for us – we are still under God's wrath. We are only forgiven, if we live the Christian life through Jesus releasing power daily.

    Up to the current day this genuine gospel is not preached in Germany, but any idiocy both by the "Evangelische Kirche" and the "Katholische Kirche". I guess the German half-Christians could get up to any nonsense again: Killing the Muslims?

    April 13, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
    • Akira

      Rainier says:
      "The people who committed the genocide either were never Christians, or had turned apostate. Maybe they were a mixture of both."

      Midwest rail addresses this below.

      "Indeed, many of the posters here regularly ask ” Where do you see hate coming from Christians ?” When it is pointed out to them, the response is invariably, “Those aren’t real Christians”. It allows to excuse anything and everything."

      "And there you have the catch-all dispensation for Christians to claim they do no evil, do no harm, and never are guilty of anything, ever. For anyone who acts in that fashion isn’t a true Christian. You absolve yourselves of any wrongdoing anywhere, anytime. How convenient."

      As did I:

      "This is my question as well; although Christianity wasn’t the cause of this, why didn’t their deeply held tenets give them pause before busting into churches to murder, one of the biggest prohibitive commandments…
      Because, fundamentally, Christians believe in the same things…"

      Behind the shield and in the guise of "doing God's bidding", one can justify anything.
      The armies are not comprised soley of Rainier Braendleins.
      What to do?

      April 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        Good posts. This Rainer is a piece of work. I have never interacted with it.

        April 13, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
        • sam stone

          rainy is a pious bigot who looks down on other christians because HE AND HE ALONE has the right view of the bible

          April 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • Akira

          He certainly shares that certainty with Theo. I wonder if they're aquainted?

          April 13, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • sam stone

          i think rainy and theo/corn pone should get a room together and have a jeebus cyrkle jerk. see who comes in the name of the savior first

          April 14, 2014 at 6:47 am |
  8. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    "The concept of forgiveness in Christianity and Judaism is very different, but in both traditions the act of returning the wrongdoer to the good is central."

    Unquote.

    It is only that we should not assume that it would be very easy to return the wrongdoer to the good. It is still a very great divine marvel when a wrongdoer becomes a believer in Jesus. King Nebuchadnezzar of the Old Testament who was one of the worst tyrants of all history converted. Strangely enough Nebuchadnezzar's son who was also a tyrant did not convert, but sinned wantonly. Much depends on the awareness. Nebuchadnezzar's son kept on sinning though he knew how marvelous God had saved his father, and that brought about his damnation.

    St. Paul was a very wrongdoer before he became a Christian because he persecuted the Christian Church of Judaea. In the New Testament St. Paul says that he was not aware that it was a crime when he persecuted the believers. At first at his conversion he realized how bad it was what he had done.

    The worst crimes can get forgiven, but if somebody is able to graps the necessary faith for that is another question. Conversion is always an extraordinary matter, it is nothing profane.

    Today there is too much profanization of conversion.

    April 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • maanirantel

      Rainer: Thank you for your excellent post. I would add that it is worth keeping in mind that God almost ALWAYS used people who initially did "bad" things to eventually do "good" things (i.e., "bringing them around"). Two other examples were Moses (who murdered an Egyptian) and David (who sent Uriah to battle to be killed so David could have Uriah's wife, Bathsheba). There are many others as well. Peace.

      April 13, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        David committed a murder, that is correct, but Moses committed no murder – it was an legal execution of a criminal when he killed the Egyptian. Be aware that Moses was an Egyptian prince before he became the leader of God's People. Moses belonged to the Egyptian authority, he had a right to judge the criminal.

        April 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          I wouldn't let these people anywhere near my children. Nor you.

          April 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
    • anniemee

      Very well said. Thank you.

      April 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
      • Concert in an Egg

        Very well said nonsense.

        April 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
        • sonicfever

          I love how you have nothing better to do then harass these people.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          I know, right?

          April 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
  9. pngolla

    When he says to ask, "Where is man?" He is actually asking where is humanity?

    The only thing that helps rationality to prevail is ask for humanity. Religion may actually set up another barrier. We know people kill each other in the name of religion regularly.

    April 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
  10. Vic

    ♰♰♰ Jesus Christ Is Lord ♰♰♰

    Steven Gahigi became the pastor of génocidaires in Rilima Prison in Bugesera including 15 who killed his sister. This is the epitome of Jesus Christ's Love He commanded and is 180º from the 'human corruption' that led to the Rwanda’s genocide in 1994.

    [
    “My people died innocently,” he would tell himself. “Why should I have to go and help the people who killed them?”

    Eventually Gahigi came to see his own survival as a calling. Instructions came, he said, in his sleep.

    He had a dream about a mob beating Jesus as he hung on the cross. A voice told Gahigi, “Those people beating Jesus are the ones Jesus helped. They killed your countrymen and your family, but you can help them.”

    When he woke up, he was crying.

    “I cried all night, but when the crying stopped, I felt light and love,” Gahigi said.

    He believed then that he had the power to forgive and to help others forgive. He began preaching reconciliation, and he sought out the prisoners who killed his family.

    “That was Jesus’ mission,” Gahigi told me. “To forgive the sins of all men.”
    ]

    Praise the Lord.

    April 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • Alias

      Or my interpretation:
      A man who suffered devistating loss from a horrific crime turned to religion to find comfort. He chose the christian religion beacuse that is the dominant religion in the area. The severity of his neurosis led him to join the priesthood, and they were proud to have him.
      I wish Steven well, but I think he needed counceling more than a bible to hide behind.

      April 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • anniemee

        Jesus told a story about a rich man who ended up in hell. As he suffered, he looked up to heaven and begged Abraham to send someone back to warn his brothers about this awful fate. But Abraham replied that his brother already had the testimony of others, the testimony of the faithful – and if that wasn't good enough for them, then nothing would convince them.

        Do not scoff at such an awesome and amazing testimony of faith: a miracle of unbelievable reconciliation has happened. The testimony of believers is the only "proof" that anyone is offered. This is an especially beautiful testimony, and this pastor is making a difference. We need to listen to him.

        April 13, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
        • James XCIX

          anniemee – "But Abraham replied that his brother already had the testimony of others, the testimony of the faithful – and if that wasn't good enough for them, then nothing would convince them...The testimony of believers is the only "proof" that anyone is offered"

          Are you really asserting that there's nothing a god could do to prove his existence that would be more convincing than merely having some people say he exists?

          April 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
  11. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    "That these two chaplains then spent a year in the Nuremberg prison, hoping to bring Nazis back to the Christian faith before they were executed, repulsed many Americans."

    Unquote.

    During the Third Reich some people prayed for the conversion of even Hitler. Bonhoeffer found that ridiculous because in Bonhoeffer's sight Hitler was impenitent. I think Bonhoeffer was right.

    April 13, 2014 at 11:53 am |
    • Akira

      If Hitler was truly pentinent towards the end, who is Bonhoffer to judge? According to Christianity, Hitler, even HE, would be forgiven.
      FWIW, I have a few problems with that.

      April 13, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        As far as I know one of the last commands of Hitler was to execute Bonhoeffer.

        Would a Christian command to kill his brother?

        Hitler showed little fruit of faith.

        April 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
        • Akira

          How freaking funny that this is the exact topic of this article.

          So instead on talking about Bohoffer and Hitler , and the fact that you didn't answer the point of my post, answer this:

          How do the Christians in this article reconcile their murder of other Christians?

          April 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
        • Concert in an Egg

          Yes, and much worse than that.

          April 13, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
    • Relictus

      The Nazis were Christians. It's wishful thinking to believe that they weren't. Sometimes Christians do bad things.

      ".. hoping to bring Nazis back to the Christian faith" – historically inaccurate. Gott mit uns.

      April 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
      • Akira

        Well, to be fair, Rainier was quoting the article.

        April 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  12. lewcypher

    The difference between me and their god is if I saw a baby being hacked to pieces I would try to stop it.

    April 13, 2014 at 11:34 am |
    • Alias

      Don't you ever get tired of posting the same thing?
      If you are going to argue against the christian god, you should first understand him.
      Pain, suffering, and injustice in this life doesn't matter to their jesus. All the whining over why god didn't come rushing in and save someone has nothing to do with the christian teachings.
      Their god lets people harm others so he can administer his final judgment when we all die. The bible is full of stories about sacrifice and remaining pure in the face of abuse and injustice. If they ever said god would rush in and save innocents in person, it would only go toward proving that he doesn’t exist. We can’t have that, now can we?

      April 13, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • davidmer

      Let carry your statement to it's logical conclusion. You want God stops every murder. Ok. But if he does that he would have to suspend the laws of nature every time there was THOUGHT in someones head that was angry or evil. And then every thought that would LEAD to to evil thoughts would have to be deleted. To do what you ask God would, by necessity, have to suspend FREE WILL. He would then have robots. Maybe that is better in your mind, but that is not something you can really argue with.

      April 13, 2014 at 11:49 am |
      • bostontola

        I would like to see God suspend the laws of nature ONCE! Forget every time, just once. It would be nice if it saved a large number of people, let's say children so we can all agree. I'll be waiting.

        April 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
  13. Rainer Helmut Braendlein

    I wanted to recommend the following book: "Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich." by David Clay Large.

    Summary of that book: Hitler was an nearly harmless village idot when he came to Munich, the capital of Bavaria (he was a native of the Bavarian-Austrian borderland). In the dark, demonic and gloomy sphere of Munich, especially of the district Schwabing, he grew the monster which was able to kill some million Jews. Munich certainly is to be blamed for the Holocaust, not only Hitler.

    Dachau is nearly a suburb of Munich. Better we would say "concentration camp Munich". I cannot imagine that the power elite of Munich did not know what was going on in Dachau where you can go by bicycle.

    It makes me so sick that this dark and ugly Munich where I am condemned to live always tries to require renown as a city of vitality and culture. Actually it is still the gateway to hell.

    April 13, 2014 at 11:32 am |
    • lewcypher

      Another book similar but broader in context is Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust. The gist of it is that under the right circu.mstances even your good neighbor is capable of slitting your throat

      April 13, 2014 at 11:37 am |
      • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

        Has any single Jew committed a crime against Hitler before Hitler started the Holocaust? I guess, no.

        April 13, 2014 at 11:41 am |
        • Alias

          hypothitically, would it be a crime if the rich upper class sent the poor lower class to fight a war that made the rich even richer?

          April 13, 2014 at 11:47 am |
        • Rainer Helmut Braendlein

          The problem of former Germany were not the rich Jews, as the Nazis led people to believe, but the godless social democrats and the godless bourgeoisie which destabilized Germany. Nobody was no more able to control the godless multi-tudes.

          Under the rule of the royal Hohenzollern there was still some piety but that all collapsed with the end of WWI.

          (hypothesis)

          April 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • Alias

          After WWI the rich were still rich and the poor were even poorer, partially because of the sanctions placed on the country. Hitler was a soldier in WWI and never got over his emotional problems he developed on the battlefield.
          Hitler used the christian faith to turn the masses against the elite – aka jewish minority. It united the people in a cause they could justify with god.

          April 13, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
    • Alias

      That book is very selective in the facts it presents and has a clear agenda.
      Why an i NOT surprised at who fell for the propaganda?

      April 13, 2014 at 11:40 am |
  14. Alias

    If you are going to argue against the christian god, you should first understand it.
    Pain, suffering, and injustice in this life doesn't matter to jesus. All the whining over why god didn't come rushing in and save someone has nothing to do with the christian ideology.
    Their god lets people mistreat others so he can administer his final judgment when they die. The bible is full of crap about sacrifice and remaining pure in the face of abuse and injustice. Not judging is mentioned somewhere too.
    If they ever said god would rush in and save innocents in person, it would only go toward proving that he doesn’t exist. We can’t have that, now can we?

    April 13, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  15. championsleaguer

    Great article until you started questioning God's motives, twisting forgiveness into acceptance, confusing the Christian definition of forgiveness and suggesting that God does not notice these atrocities.

    April 13, 2014 at 11:16 am |
    • bostontola

      I agree. Attributing motives to a fictional character is ridiculous.

      April 13, 2014 at 11:20 am |
    • Alias

      Before I would call it a great article I would have to point out that it was deeply lacking in explaining the real cause of the hatred and violence. The minority Tutsis had been backed by government forces (they look a little more European) and supported by the outside world for generations. They were not the kindest poeple either. That doesn't justify killing everyone who looked ike them, but it does put a perspective on the situation.

      April 13, 2014 at 11:37 am |
  16. James XCIX

    “Asking where God was in all this is the wrong question,” he continued. “The right question is, ‘Where was man?’”

    This is a prime example of the contradictory nature of the beliefs Christians are taught about their god. One may argue they are taught incorrectly, but the vast majority are taught that if you pray to god with sincerity your prayer will be answered. So assuming tens of thousands prayed for deliverance from their attackers, what are the typical responses as to why they were not? "It wasn't part of his plan", or "he did answer, but his answer was no", or some other response that contradicts the teachings of a god who responds to sincere prayer. And of course, there are plenty of lame reasons given why he doesn't just intervene against evil acts on his own. Mind boggling.

    April 13, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • Alias

      This is not contradictory to the nature of the beliefs Christians are taught. Well, considering all the different interpretations of the bible, it may be in some cases. However, my brainwashing did not ever try to convince me that god would interfere with free will. The dhristian god would allow this, and then judge everyone – victoms and killers – according to their natures. What is a quick bloody death compared to an eternity of blilss?
      Now, let's talk about how the bible teaches morals again and how non-christians don't have them.

      April 13, 2014 at 11:20 am |
      • James XCIX

        I'm thinking of Bible passages such as "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." and the like, which do seem to contradict with the explanations given when a prayer is not answered.

        And the free will idea is just another example of an idea that conflicts with prayer. I don't understand how someone who believes everything happens according to their god's unchangeable plan and that he can't interfere with free will can expect that any prayer will have any effect on future events or on someone else's thoughts or behavior–yet so many do expect that, based on passages like I quoted above.

        April 13, 2014 at 11:35 am |
        • Alias

          Do you really not understand that no one takes that bible passage literally?
          I'm talking about the theology in the big picture of it all. Of course there are contradictions. That is why there are so many different religions that use a bible as their book.

          April 13, 2014 at 11:51 am |
        • James XCIX

          Alias – "Do you really not understand that no one takes that bible passage literally?"

          No, that is not my understanding. It appears your background is Catholic, and I know Catholics don't tend to take the Bible so literally; however, the fundamentalist point of view is different.

          April 13, 2014 at 11:58 am |
        • Alias

          James, insanity is a complicated thing. I cannot cure people who are so delusional that they think an all-powerful being will give them whatever they want. At least, I won't try in this forum.

          April 13, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
      • Strand

        Alias, the majority of the perpetrators were also Christian. What happened to their morals?

        April 13, 2014 at 11:38 am |
        • Alias

          I left the catholic church because of their lack of morals. What was your point?

          April 13, 2014 at 11:52 am |
        • Akira

          This is my question as well; although Christianity wasn't the cause of this, why didn't their deeply held tenets give them pause before busting into churches to murder, one of the biggest prohibitive commandments...
          Because, fundamentally, Christians believe in the same things...

          April 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
  17. socal4me

    Just another day with Global Religion doing what it does best...
    Divide & Conquer,
    Perhaps one day mankind will wake up from this nightmare...

    April 13, 2014 at 10:45 am |
  18. idiotusmaximus

    ........mass murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which continued for 100 days and left at least 800,000 dead.

    Just another story of what ignorance can do when people are sadly uneducated...all of this pathetic killing accomplished nothing for anyone.

    April 13, 2014 at 10:18 am |
    • bostontola

      Sadly, it is the narrow education that is at the bottom of this. They are educated in the superiority of their religion, and that they must eradicate those that have different beliefs. Just look at the madrasahs.

      April 13, 2014 at 10:24 am |
  19. bostontola

    #1 theme in responding to this:

    These are errors of individual people. Individuals are prone to errors. Christians try to live like Jesus, but they are fallible. This includes the priests and above.

    April 13, 2014 at 9:54 am |
    • midwest rail

      Indeed, many of the posters here regularly ask " Where do you see hate coming from Christians ?" When it is pointed out to them, the response is invariably, "Those aren't real Christians". It allows to excuse anything and everything.

      April 13, 2014 at 9:59 am |
      • midwest rail

        " allows them "

        April 13, 2014 at 10:00 am |
      • Doris

        Bingo.

        April 13, 2014 at 10:01 am |
      • davidmer

        Show me your evidence for this statement "Those who commit evil are acting as Christ taught them" – if you can't (and you can't) your premise is faulty.

        April 13, 2014 at 11:41 am |
        • midwest rail

          And there you have the catch-all dispensation for Christians to claim they do no evil, do no harm, and never are guilty of anything, ever. For anyone who acts in that fashion isn't a true Christian. You absolve yourselves of any wrongdoing anywhere, anytime. How convenient.

          April 13, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
    • ddeevviinn

      So you're good with the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong defining and representing your atheism? Just to be clear.

      April 13, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
      • tallulah131

        Atheism can be defined in one simple statement: Atheists don't believe that gods exist.

        There is no dogma to fall upon, there is no other common thread, there is no handbook of behavior to interpret. Therefore those despots you name do not represent me. We have nothing in common but one simple thing: The lack of belief in a god. See how that works?

        April 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          " Atheists don't believe God exists."

          Which is the dogma you fall upon and which is your common ground.

          Individuals claiming to be Christians who are complicit in genocide no more represent my beliefs than Pol Pot does yours.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
        • igaftr

          devin
          Dogm is the wrong word. There is NO dogma to NOT believing in deities.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          iga

          " dogma: an established opinion, belief or principle. "

          – Merriam Webster

          April 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
        • igaftr

          devin
          Nice misrepresentation of the truth liar. Why did you not include the entire definition?
          Dogma
          : a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted

          : a belief or set of beliefs that is taught by a religious organization

          full definition:

          Since I a1a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet b : a code of such tenets c : a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds
          2: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

          From the webster dictionary.
          Clearly by editing the definition you chose to lie by omission...busted.

          m an atheist but beliong to no group, you calling atheism a dogma is invalid. Find another word. NOT belief is not a belief.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          " liar"
          iga

          No need to resort to childish antics. I was using one of a number of definitions to show that dogma can be defined in more than one way.

          Surely you can do better than name calling when you fail to comprehend a statement?

          April 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
        • igaftr

          devin.
          I caught you lying by omission, so referred to you as a liar, and then proved you were lying.

          Not at all childish, though trying to lie like that is pretty immature.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          No, actually you did not.

          As stated, I presented a definition that applied to my usage of "dogma" in the context of which we were speaking.

          You do realize that definitions in a dictionary are not linear and all inclusive, that they list a number of DIFFERENT definitions for a specific word?

          If you still wish to make the accusation of liar, you are more than welcome to do so.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
        • igaftr

          devin
          Since you chose to abridge the definition so that it could possibly apply, that was decietful.

          In EVERY definition I found, there needs to be some sort of UNIFIED body, which does not exist in atheism. It is simply NOT believing others dogma.

          There is NO DOGMA to not believing in Santa Claus, not the easter bunny, there is no dogma to not believing in any given thing.

          YOU are the one who started with definitions, YOU are the one who lied by omission, YOU are the one making a falsec laim there is a dogma to not believing in something.

          Don't get angry with me, you are the one who incorrectly used a term, then lied about it.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          " Don't get angry with me "

          Angry? Not in the slightest. Pity is the operative word here.

          Pity: 1. A strong feeling of sympathy for someone or something.

          2. Something to be regretted.

          It's the first definition that I would apply to you, not the second. Just in case you are still having confusion about the inner workings of a dictionary.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
        • igaftr

          devin
          You pity me because I can CORRECTLY use a dictionary and you can't? Funny.

          Once again, there is NO dogma to atheism.

          April 13, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
      • Akira

        About as much as Hitler, the Thirty Years War and the above geonocide in Rwanda defines Christianity, devin. And you're fine with that?

        April 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
        • ddeevviinn

          Which was my point.

          April 13, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
  20. Sniperhunter2012

    Reblogged this on And Then the Darkness Fell.

    April 13, 2014 at 7:59 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.