We caught up with Edward Nyituriki, a BUILD student and trainer who is in Amsterdam studying for a masters. Edward is exploring how genocide perpetrators can be reintegrated back into their communities once they have been released from jail. We discussed what that work might mean for him when he returns to Rwanda later in the year, and how it can inform, connect with and impact BUILD.
The focus of Edward’s study is on how prisoners who were involved in the genocide but are soon to be released “can be positive to the community, how they can bring peace rather than instability.” Edward has looked at how his diocese, Shyogwe, has been doing prison ministry and preparing prisoners for release. He discovered that while there has been a great deal of helpful preaching, there has been very little personal work to respond to their cry. As one prisoner told him, “We are like orphans and no one is taking care of us.” In response, Edward’s study advocates for a particular type of prison chaplaincy to develop at Muhanga and Nyanza, a chaplaincy that will “counsel prisoners and connect them to the local community, helping them to share with those communities, and especially with the genocide survivors.”
The re-integration of perpetrators among survivors is understandably challenging. First, Edward shares, there is the need for them to “realise what they have done, for confession and forgiveness.” As he went on to say, “asking for forgiveness is a very big step towards reconciliation, and survivors are willing and wanting to hear from perpetrators, although it can take some time to forgive.” To complicate matters, the local gacaca law court system that was already struggling before the genocide was completely overwhelmed with cases. As a result, many prisoners who are presumed perpetrators feel they have been the victims of terrible injustice. As Edward pointed out, “some say, ‘What will we confess?’ We need to be able to help them to deal with this.”
The chaplaincy will connect prisoners with parishes in order “to create local reconciliation groups where perpetrators and survivors can meet for teaching and sharing on reconciliation, repentance and forgiveness. Not only drawing on key biblical passages, but also on how our culture encourages peaceful neighbourhoods, working closely with pastors and catechists. This means identifying genocide survivors and those in the community with relatives in prison, and bringing them together too.”
As Edward pointed out, it can be hard gathering people together for such meetings. “But if they can do an activity together it can motivate them, an activity of their choice – farming, brick making, income generating. That means having micro-finance funds available that they can borrow to start these up. Doing these activities together will encourage them and help them to overcome the stigma that they feel, their feeling that they are rejected, developing a sense of being together helps to reduce their fear.”
How does all this link with the work of BUILD? Edward explained that, “in one way and another I have been inspired by and have learnt from BUILD. But BUILD is focussed on the catechists and pastors, while this chaplaincy programme will draw in a wide variety of those who have been affected by the genocide. Those who have been trained by BUILD are among the ones who will implement the reconciliation groups – the catechists and pastors. This will give them a new perspective and message in their groups.”
Along with BUILD and other programmes, this initiative will be integral to delivering the four pillars of the diocese (sharing the word with families, alleviating poverty, bringing peace & reconciliation, and creating church ownership*), so that Rwandan communities can be reintegrated as a critical part of the Church’s mission in that context.
*Edward clarified that ‘church ownership’ means “members resolving their own problems and initiating their own programmes,” rather than assuming that the pastor or diocese will do it for them.