The month of April 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the fastest and most cruel genocide of our time: 800,000 people dead in 100 days.
In April and part of May, 1994, members of the Hutu tribe of Rwanda relentlessly killed women, children, the elderly, and anyone from the Tutsi tribe with machetes.
Are there racial differences between Hutus and Tutsis? Probably 99% of those who do not belong to either tribe cannot distinguish one from the other. They resemble each other in color, race, customs, neighborhood, etc.
However, tribal hatred was stronger than similarities and gave rise to a frightening wave of deaths that, after 25 years, the world remembers astonished..
Is there a relationship between this tragedy and the coming Synod on the Amazon?
At first glance there seems to be none. Africa and South America are different continents, have different populations etc. However, there is a profound similarity in that both the peoples of the Amazon and those of Rwanda are tribes that live according to immemorial uses and customs and seem to have been little influenced by Western societies.
Furthermore, both peoples are found in the poorest areas of the planet, do not live a “consumerist” ideal, and avoid being competitive. These characteristics place them in the “ideal” state sought by the Synod on the Amazon.
Indeed, according to Cardinal Barreto, member of the Pre-synodal Council and Vice President of REPAM (Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network), “In reality, it is very clear that this sober life that Pope Francis proposes in Laudato Si falls under its own weight. The consumerist rhythm, this technocratic system that puts profit and the abusive use of natural resources first, makes it inviable. … The Amazon Synod is going to be a test ground, an examination for the Church today, not only for the Amazon region but for the whole world.”
So idealized, tribal people stop being “taught” and become the “teachers”. The Cardinal states: “In this sense, there is something very important which is learning, and learning to listen, because normally the Church simply preached, (she) did not listen. In fact, in Puerto Maldonado Pope Francis said, I ask you to help your bishops and priests and all pastoral agents to be one with you. And that is the metanoia, the conversion, the Church has to convert to them, let itself be touched by that suffering, by that abandonment, by that disposable situation as is often thought of the Amazon.”
As a consequence of this abandonment of the Church’s teaching mission, the organizers of the next Synod boast that there have been no conversions of Amazonian Indians to Catholicism in the last half century.
In fact, those responsible for the missions increasingly appear in clothing inappropriate to their age or ecclesiastical status. They camouflage as natives, certainly drawing more laughter than true harmony from the real Indians.
In their unilateralism favoring tribal uses and customs, neo-missionaries carefully leave out the fact that those ancestral customs include homicide, cannibalism, infanticide and exterminating anyone who is not like them.
The Rwanda genocide that occurred only 25 years ago calls for a reality check. All peoples, tribal and non-tribal, are made up of men and women conceived in original sin, who consequently have inclinations toward evil, vice and error. This fallen condition of the human race is the same for everyone at all times.
If our Shepherds deceived themselves with an idyllic vision of native peoples and abandon their teaching mission, they are not only betraying their mission but harming those peoples by keeping them in the practice of their vices and errors.
This is precisely what happened in Rwanda. As a Tutsi crowd sought refuge in a Catholic church hoping that at least that way their lives could be respected, the murderers, who had not been properly catechized, respected neither the sanctity of the place nor those people’s sacred right to life, coldly murdering them among church pews.
Paul Kagame, the current President of Rwanda, has just decreed 100 days of national mourning for this genocide and is promoting the reunification of both peoples to work together to improve the country’s living standards.
The Amazon’s neo-missionaries will certainly be indignant at seeing Tutsis and Hutus being introduced to the “consumerism” they repeatedly condemn. But how to get out of the vicious circle if the missionaries themselves renounce the role of authentic evangelizers?