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What We Should Learn From the Rwandan Genocide

Category Articles
Date February 26, 2016

‘Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood.’ (Isaiah 59:7)

On the evening of April 6, 1994, Rwandan President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was flying into the airport in Kigali when his plane was struck by two rockets, killing him and all on board, including the President of nearby Burundi, Cyprien Ntariyamira. The rockets were fired from the nearby military base of the Hutu FAR (Rwandese Armed Forces). In other words, the Hutu assassinated their President from the same majority tribe. They did so because Habyarimana was moving toward including the Tutsi in the governance of Rwanda. This event set in motion a well planned, orchestrated ethnic cleansing of the minority Tutsi tribe in Rwanda. Within eight weeks, 800,000 Tutsi were shot or hacked to death by Hutu ‘Interahamwe‘ (a term in the Kinyarwanda language meaning ‘those who attack as one’). The death toll through this merciless slaughter of innocent men, women, and children was far more than those who died from the atomic blasts delivered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945.1

After World War I Germany was forced to give up their colony Rwanda to Belgium and the Belgians put in control the majority tribe of Hutu. Hutu comprise over 87% of Rwanda while the Tutsi are 10%. By the way, Rwanda was one of the most evangelized countries in the world. Sixty-two percent are Roman Catholic and 20% are Protestant. Tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi had been building for years, and there already had been several thousand Tutsi murdered on numerous occasions. The national Hutu radio station, for weeks leading up the genocide of April, 1994, stirred up the hatred of the Tutsi, calling them cockroaches, that Tutsi must be killed, that they should hunt out the Tutsi, pits must be dug and their bodies must be thrown into them, ‘Take your spears, clubs, guns, swords, stones, everything, sharpen them, hack them, those enemies, those cockroaches.’

Before dawn on April 13, 1994, 1200 Christian Tutsi were seeking refuge in a church in Kigali, when Hutu soldiers knocked down the doors to the church, entered, tossing hand grenades, spraying the believers with machine gun fire, and using machetes to hack to pieces any who were still alive. Most of the dead were children. On another occasion the UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda), which the UN mandated could only use guns to defend themselves, while guarding fleeing Tutsi in the Kigali sports stadium, allowed Hutu into the stadium. The Hutu took thousands of Tutsi from the stadium to a nearby field and slaughtered them. Numerous priests and nuns from the Roman Catholic church, as well as Protestant ministers, turned over their Tutsi parishioners to the murderous Hutu mobs. The killing did not cease until the RPT (the Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front) drove the Hutu FAR out of the country.2

What should we learn from the Rwandan genocide? Consider the following four principles. First, anyone, even professing Christians, are capable of the most horrific and profound evil. Paul the apostle says, ‘I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh,’ (Romans 7:18). When you carelessly neglect your heart, failing to walk in the Spirit, you will surely carry out the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:17). Your anger, lust, racial bigotry can consume you and bring you and others to untold destruction and misery. ‘Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life,’ (Proverbs 4:23).

Second, whenever a people are stripped of guns, they are incapable of defending themselves. Historically speaking, gun control always precedes genocide. Consider:

Perpetrator Date of Genocide Targets Murdered Date Gun Control
Ottoman Turkey 1915-1917 Armenians 1.5 Million 1911
Soviet Union 1926-1953 Christians, et al 36 Million 1929
Nazi Germany 1933 – 1945 Jews/Christians 13 Million 1928, 1938
China 1949-1976 Christians, et al 60 Million 1936, 1947
Uganda 1971-1979 Christians 600,000 1970
Cambodia 1975-1979 The Educated 3 Million 1956
Rwanda 1990-1994 Christian Tutsi 800,000 19643

Third, racial hatred and bigotry abound in every culture in the world. We face renewed racial tension in our country. As in other nations, some in the majority culture in America are resentful of movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’. We may also resent the erosion of our American way of life by the influx of illegal immigrants and the increased burden this places on our welfare system, which means taxpayers are expected to pay the bill. And some in the minority cultures may resent the perceived or real insensitivity majority culture people have to their plight. Both groups, especially of Christians, must be exceedingly careful to walk in the Spirit, to not allow our flesh and indwelling sin to overwhelm our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter on what side of the issues we may fall.

And fourth, something was terribly wrong with the type of Christianity preached and lived in Rwanda. The vast majority were and are professing Christians, but anyone who says that he loves God and hates his brother is a liar (1 John 4:20 ). Could it be that a truncated, shallow, cheap grace gospel was preached, one devoid of stressing the vital necessity of regeneration which transforms people from the inside, resulting in true repentance and faith, promoting a progressive sanctification which affects every area of life? Is this not a call for preachers and church leaders everywhere to preach the whole counsel of God, calling men and women to take up their cross daily, to die to self, to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling?


  1. At Hiroshima 160,000 died instantly and another 3000 died later from radiation. At Nagasaki 80,000 died from the blast and another 2000 from radiation in succeeding months and years. <>
  2. For a far more detailed report on the Rwanda genocide I highly recommend Holocaust in Rwanda by Dr. Peter Hammond.
  3. Ibid. page 51.

Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.

If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at

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