Martyrdom & Genocide (Not for sensitive readers)
A brief report compiled by Andre Pelser after visiting Uganda and Rwanda in January 2011/
These two topics would probably not sell any books or tapes, but they are realities we have to deal with. Among the first Christians they used to train even their children to be prepared for possible martyrdom. There is a special grace for martyrdom that starts with hospitality. If you can open your home for others and care for others, you are developing a very high level of Christian grace. Very few Christians these days even want others in their homes. We have become so selfish and self-centered.
But I grew up in a parsonage where we always had people living with us. Sometimes whole families lived with us for long periods of time. Preachers from oversees stayed in our home whenever they preached in the church. Sometimes when I am taken care of in a foreign land I think of my parents taking care of travelling evangelists. I reap where they have sown.
Nola has a particular gift of hospitality and she has shown it to many over the 30 years in the full time ministry.
But I don’t want to dwell on hospitality, rather on the two unpopular topics. You can prepare for martyrdom, but genocide happens before you can prepare.
The Martyr’s Shrine
Namugongo, 15 KM east of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is the place where a shrine was erected for the Uganda martyrs. On June, 3 pilgrims visit the shrine to pay homage to the martyrs, and to renew their faith in Christ. This is an eastern and Roman Catholic practice that has unawares crept into Christian circles. We are not instructed to worship the dead, but God alone. Mugongo means ‘back’. The martyrs were dragged on their backs to the pyre where they were burned to death.
Buganda Kabaka Murange decided to execute anyone who turned from their pagan gods to Christianity.
The explorer Henry Morton Stanley tried to convert the pagans to Christianity in 1875 and wrote and published articles in newspapers both in England and America begging them to send missionaries to Uganda, but there was no or very little response.
In 1886 Kabaka butchered Christians by tying them in groups before killing them. He would roll them in reeds and club their heads to numb them before burning them on the pyre. Sometimes he chopped them in pieces. The Christians recited the prayer that Jesus gave as an example to his disciples to teach them how to pray.
The Catholics and Muslims built shrines for their martyrs and unfortunately the Christians built their own shrine as well. Only in 1999 the Protestants built a church on the site.
Martyrdom was meant to scare new converts from becoming Christians but it had just the opposite effect: Christianity spread even faster to other regions! The martyrs that fled to neighbouring nations took the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.
Idi Amin’s reign of terror saw a genocide of tens of thousands of people. Anyone who opposed him was put to death immediately. They were cut into pieces and fed to the fish in the lake. Strange phenomena occurred…so they told me…the fish grew sharp teeth to devour human flesh. The other atrocities committed by Amin and his followers are too horrible to mention, and yet he is described in the annuls of the worlds’ history as a ‘great leader’ like Hitler, Stalin and Yomo Kenyatta – all mass murderers of their own people.
Genocide Memorial, Kigali, Rwanda
Two million Rwandese were murdered during the genocide or national cleansing as the ruling Hutu’s referred to the butchering of the Tutsis during 1990-1994.
Ten cows made you a Tutsi (a rich person) but if you had less than ten you were a poor person (Hutu). The Catholic education system approved of this distinction. The Belgian king Bandoin shaped Rwanda according to European values.
When the genocide began hundreds of thousands of Tutsi’s were exiled but many of them joined the rebel forces against the army which became the civil war to establish equal rights.
Radio and TV propaganda was used to brainwash the nation to see their family members and friends as possible enemies. They incited hatred and distrust and gave reasons to justify the killings. The ruling party conditioned the nation through fear to accept and join the plan for genocide.
An informant called Jean-Pierre came forward with information of the genocide and reported it to the United Nations. But no one believed him. He suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth.
The devastating frenzy of violence and bloodshed accompanied with merciless killing reached an apocalyptical scale. Machetes, guns, and any blunt tools were used to bludgeon victims to death. No Tutsi was exempt. Many children were left maimed for the rest of their lives. When Tutsis sought refuge in churches hand grenades were tossed into the buildings and they were all blown up. If any escaped they were hacked to pieces. Death was made painful and agonizing to frighten and humiliate the victims. Some Tutsis had their tendons cut by the Hutus so that they could not run away. Women were raped by soldiers with the HIV virus. It was seen as a genocide weapon. Family members were made to watch as their children were being tortured before they were murdered.
The piles of dead people were sometimes ten bodies deep. The mass graves were dug everywhere and people were dumped into the shallow holes and covered with soil, the red soil of Rwanda.
Whole families were wiped out and their names no longer exist. Streets were littered with corpses and dogs were eating the rotting flesh of their owners. The stench of death was everywhere…Rwanda died. Chaos reigned in the nation. Both victims and perpetrators were fleeing for different reasons. Refugee camps were set up. Two thirds of the nation was displaced. Hundreds of thousands of children were orphaned.
The World is slow to Respond
General Romea Dellaire of the UN assistance mission to Rwanda sent an urgent cable to New York for more troops and weapons. But he waited one month for a response…the UN was slow to believe the report of the genocide in Rwanda.
In 1995 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established. After ten years only 81 indictments were issued.
The question remains: will the painful memory prevent genocide?
Kofi Annan repented as General Secretary of the UN: ‘I should have done more to stop the genocide in Rwanda ten years ago.’
The Belgian Prime Minister also confessed, ‘the entire International community is guilty for not responding to the Rwandan genocide.’
Today ethnic cleansing is happening in all four corners of the globe. What would put a stop to this madness? It is the spirit of the devil who came to steal, kill and to destroy. More than ever it is vital that we go into the entire world to preach the Gospel of Peace through Jesus Christ to all the nations of the world. That is the only solution to the problem of genocide.
Can you hear the clarion call: who will go for us? If you cannot go, will you support those who are willing to go?
Apostle André Pelser