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Title: The test of faith : Christians and Muslims in the Rwandan genocide
Author: Benda, Richard Munyurangabo
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is a critical inquiry into the response to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 by Christians and Muslims. Structured around the thesis that Muslims resisted the genocide better than Christians, it explores the historical, cultural, political and theological causes that motivated and explain the actions of both faith communities in the face of genocide. The first chapter offers a critique of the dominant colonial perspective from which the topic of religion and genocide has been studied so far. It presents pre-colonial Rwandans as evolving in a complex spiritual universe, Gakondo, where religion, morality and politics were closely linked. The rise of a centralised state and sacred monarchy resulted in the theological marginalisation of the Rwandan divinity Imana and the deformation of the political conscience of the Rwanda subject. The second and the third chapter deal respectively with the beginnings of Christianity and Islam in Rwanda within the context of colonization. They show the genealogy of Christianity’s political ambivalence and Islam’s marginalisation, both which played an important role in the genocide of 1994. One significant contribution of the second chapter is to problematise the epistemological confusion between Rwandan Christianity and Roman Catholicism. Chapter four suggests a framework for the understanding of ‘Rwanda 94’ as an instance of evil. It offers a critique of the epistemic hijacking that characterises research in the Rwandan events. The chapter argues for a historical and naturalistic approach to the study of ‘Rwanda 94’, which should be qualified as ‘autocide’ instead of genocide because of the intimacy between victims and perpetrators. Chapter five and six tackle the thesis that Muslims resisted the genocide better than Christians. Examination of the factual data and revisionist discourses in post-genocide Rwanda lead to the conclusion that the imputation of success to Islam and failure to Christianity is operated by virtue of expectations on both faith communities. More specifically, chapter six provides a theological reading of Christianity’s shortcomings as sin. Chapter seven addresses the paradoxical phenomenon of religious blossoming in post-genocide Rwanda and argues that it is faith-based resistance to genocide shown by many Muslims and individual Christians which made ‘God-talk’ possible and ensured the survival of institutional religion. Chapter eight gives a summary and critique of the process of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. It argues that Islam and Christianity need to develop an alternative model of reconciliation that challenges and moralises the State-engineered politics of reconciliation.
Supervisor: Ward, Graham; Hoelzl, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Rwanda, Genocide, Islam, Christianity, Reconciliation, Evil, Sin, Faith-based resistance, Autocide, ; State soteriology, Political theology, Political history, Traditional morality, Gakondo,