Arrest of Theologian in Rwanda Decried by Bishops

They Say It´s a Bid to Halt Reconciliation Efforts

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ROME, FEB. 11, 2002 ( Bishops of Central African say the recent arrest of a Catholic theologian in Rwanda is an attempt to halt the Church´s efforts at reconciliation.

Laurien Ntezimana, 47, father of four, had been promoting reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsis, from the office of the Modeste and Innocent association, named after two of the many victims of the genocide.

Awarded by Pax Christi in 1998, Ntezimana is known in Switzerland, where he led the 1996 Lenten Campaign, and Belgium. Reports say Ntezimana might be accused of treason because of the association´s activity, a crime punishable by death.

Ntezimana, a Hutu, lives in the Diocese of Butare. He is also the founder of a theological association. His commitment to ethnic reconciliation is seen as an obstacle by groups interested in maintaining tension to guarantee their hold on power.

The bishops of three episcopal conferences of Central Africa — Rwanda, Burundi and Congo — are meeting in Kinshasa, Congo. They say they believe that Ntezimana´s case is an example of the attempt to calumniate the task of reconciliation promoted by the Church.

Bishop Bernard Bududira of Bururi, Burundi, told the press in late January: «The Church is the first institution in proposing dialogue among the factions. It has been demonized by those who maintain that we defend the impunity of those accused of genocide.»

However, the reality is that «the dialogue between sons and daughters of the same nation cannot be rejected,» he said. This is why the Church has met with Protestants and Muslims to support «the division of power» with a concrete and real agreement, the bishop said.

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