Religion and the Rwandan genocide


  • Gerard van’t Spijker Free University of Amsterdam


Politics and Christianity, Missions -- Rwanda, Genocide -- Rwanda, Ethnic conflict, Violence -- Religious aspects -- Christianity, Religions -- Relations, Refugees, Rwandan, Colonialism and neocolonialism, Islam -- Rwanda


This article discusses the problems concerning the relation of religion and the genocide in Rwanda in 1990. One of the most urgent questions – formulated as an accusation by the present political regime in Rwanda – is whether religion and the influence of the churches and church leaders have, in fact, fuelled the genocide, or even was Christian missionary activity the ultimate cause of the genocide? In the broader circles of the present regime that articulate public opinion, it is argued that the presence of Christianity, more precisely the activities of the Roman Catholic Church, has not only contrib­uted to the possibility of the genocide, but has been at the root of the political constellation that led to the genocide, and that during the genocide, Church leaders were actively involved in it. In many documents, it is argued that the Rwandan genocide would never have taken place, if Christian mis­sions, particularly those of the Roman Catholic Church, had not been estab­lished in Rwanda. Related to this is the question of how the religious change after the genocide is to be interpreted, since in fact, after 1994, many new Christian communities have been founded, and a striking growth of Islam may be noticed. 

How to Cite

van’t Spijker, G. (2006). Religion and the Rwandan genocide. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 19, 339–357.