" The London-based human rights organization, 'African Rights', published testimonies of young women who claimed that ["Father"] Munyeshyaka bartered their escape in exchange for sexual relations. "

"Some 75 percent of Burundi citizens are Roman Catholic, while 16 percent are Protestant." [nearly same as Rwanda]

[ Associated Press and CIA put Protestant figure at 5 percent ... JP ]



pgs 452-453



Several Hutu Catholic priests, Protestant pastors, and religious workers have been attacked, tortured, and murdered in recent weeks amid increasing ethnic violence in the central African nation of Burundi. The attacks on clergy in Burundi follow the pattern of violent clashes between the majority Hutu community and the minority Tutsis, who control the army. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the past two years in massacres which parallel those of neighboring Rwanda.

Deadly tribal conflict, which haunts Burundi every few years, is currently centered around the capital, Bujumbura. Local authorities July 13 confirmed the death of Father Jacques Ntamitalizo, Superior of the Salesian Order in Rwanda, who was killed by unknown assailants in Bujumbura. Ntamitalizo had arrived from Zaire July 9 and disappeared the following day. City workers discovered the priest's body while collecting other corpses after a spate of violence in Bujumbura. Also on July 13, a Tutsi militia opened fire on three Catholic priests and a nun who were returning to the Bujumbura seminary. Fathers Alphonse Ndabizeruye, Anatole Birindangabo, Dieudonne Noambinige as well as Sister Irene Ndayizeye were injured in the attack. Paolo Costantini, spokesman for the Brussels-based African News Bulletin, said that Ndabizeruye was seriously injured by a bullet that perforated his abdomen. He was also hit in the thigh and leg. The others sustained less serious injuries, Costantini said.

Sources said that Seventh Day Adventist pastor Amiel Ndaruzaniye was killed July 8 by Tutsi fighters in Mabayi. No further details were available. A Cibitoke parish priest, identified as Father Anastase, and his catechist were captured July 7 by a group of armed Tutsis; the victims were stabbed and left for dead. Children who had witnessed the attack sought help for Anastase, who was still alive. The 34-year-old priest died on his way to the hospital.

Father Andre Havyarimana, a parish priest of Rwisabi, was tortured and murdered July 4 by three military men who forced their way inside the church compound in Mutano. Havyarimana was shot in the ribs, dragged out of his room, and stabbed in the chest. All the while he was being questioned about an attack on a military bus in Ruhororo.

Witnesses said the priest received cuts in the knee, arm, and mouth. He was tortured for approximately an hour until he finally died.

A Tutsi cook who tried to come to the priest's aid was also shot, but the parish vicar was able to hide and escape. According to sources, many of the victims were on a "blacklist" of Burundi priests slated to be eliminated. Also on the list was Father Zacharie Nduwimana, parish priest of Ntaga, who was killed April 27 by Tutsi extremists.

A hardline Tutsi militia group called the Society of Youths for the Defense of Minorities is believed responsible for much of the violence against religious personnel. The militia is the armed wing of the Party for National Recovery, the political party of former dictator Jean Baptiste Bagaza, who persecuted churches during his 1976-1987 rule.

During a failed coup attempt in October 1993, four priests, three nuns, and a number of catechists were killed. In 1994, four bishops escaped assassination attempts, but the parish priest of Gihanga and numerous catechists were killed. Churches and chapels have also been attacked during religious services, resulting in the deaths of many parishioners.

The Catholic bishops of Burundi condemned the escalating violence in a letter read July 28 on Vatican Radio. "In the name of the people of Burundi, who have a right to peace and desire it greatly, we ask those involved in the conflict to lay down their weapons immediately," they said. The bishops denounced "warlords" who recruit and arm teenagers to terrorize members of rival ethnic groups. "The search for power, the spirit of vengeance, and the habit of violence are causing the renewed bloodshed," the bishops said.

Much of the violence against the Church has been fueled by anti- Catholic commentaries published in Burundi media outlets, writings which have been denounced by the international human rights group, 'Reporters Without Borders'. "By trying to remain impartial and by preaching tolerance, the [Roman Catholic] Church has focused on itself the anger of extremist groups," said a representative of the Missionaries of Africa, who asked not to be identified.

Some 75 percent of Burundi citizens are Roman Catholic, while 16 percent are Protestant. The United Nations and foreign governments have only had limited success in trying to forge peace in Burundi and avert a repeat of the wave of ethnic genocide that swept through Rwanda last year. News Network International August 11, 1995


In Rwanda, where massive ethnic bloodshed ended just one year ago, a Roman Catholic priest was killed by unidentified assailants. According to a report on Rwanda radio, the body of Father Pie Ntahobari was found August 2 about a mile from his church in the central Rwandan town of Kamonyi. The report stated the cleric was murdered the night of Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, a French judge ordered Aug. 3 that exiled Rwandan Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka must remain in jail in Nimes, France. Munyeshyaka is being held on charges of genocide for his alleged complicity in last year's ethnic massacres. The judge rejected a motion by the priest's attorneys that he be released on bail. Defense attorneys have another 20 days to challenge the decision. Munyeshyaka has been charged with "genocide, torture, ill-treatment, and degrading and inhuman activities" in connection with the slaughter of an estimated 500,000 Tutsis and Hutus last year. Munyeshyaka came to France in the fall of 1994 with the help of the French Catholic Church and has been active as a parish priest in Bourg-Saint-Andeal since late last year.

The new Rwandan government, dominated by Tutsis, has brought the charges against the priest. Munyeshyaka claimed innocence in recent press conferences, saying he was prepared to face his accusers in a court of law. In its June 27 issue, the French magazine Golias, which is published by a group of French Catholics opposed to the Pope, released a list of 19 Catholic priests, four nuns, and four Protestant pastors it accused of "joining assassins" involved in the massacres. Much of the report centered on Munyeshyaka, who remained in his Kigali parish when Rwandan Patriotic Front troops approached. Munyeshyaka helped care for refugees who flooded Kigali, including some 3,000 Tutsis fleeing Hutu militia and 15, 000 Hutus fearing the arrival of Rwandan Patriotic Front troops. When Kigali fell to the Rwandan Patriotic Front July 4, 1994, Munyeshyaka fled to Goma, Zaire. In October, French Catholic leaders helped him get a visa to France.

The London-based human rights organization, 'African Rights', published testimonies of young women who claimed that ["Father"] Munyeshyaka bartered their escape in exchange for sexual relations. Several [Roman] Catholics have spoken out in defense of the priest.

On completing a trip to Rwanda and Burundi, South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu appealed for understanding toward clergymen who may have been caught up in the ethnic violence.

"None of us can ever predict how we would operate in situations such as that," said Tutu at an August 3 press conference in London. Tutu is president of the ecumenical All Africa Council of Churches. "We decry what has happened," he said, but he acknowledged that he would not want to "tell someone to be ready to be a martyr."

The Rwandan government has kept up its attack on the Church and the alleged involvement of clergy in the bloodletting.

"The men of the Church failed. The Catholic Church failed," Rwanda's Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana told reporters in Brussels Aug. 3. His government, which has been in power for just more than a year, has urged the [Roman] Catholic Church to reexamine its role in the country and change its policies. "[Catholic leaders] have been asked to see how they can make deep reforms in their evangelical message," Gasana said. "They have to look God in the eyes.

They know they have failed, and they are frustrated."

News Network International, August 11, 1995


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