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VIOLENCE AS INSTITUTION IN AFRICAN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE: A CASE STUDY OF RWANDA Malachie Munyaneza UnitedReform Church, London I. Introduction Violence is a phenomenon. It is multidimensional and multifarious. It is physical, geographical, spiritual, psychological, sudden or latent. It is metaphysical, because for some religious beliefs, it involves the deed-consequences scheme in terms of rewards and punishments, even beyond this world into the otherworldly life. It is an instrument used in one's own life (suicide), in the simple family, in the small-scale societies, as well as in the multi-ethnic social settings. It can be a national, multinational and universal phenomenon. It presents some contradictions, because, though it is abhorred in general, some individuals or states use it as a means to achieve ultimate good or misuse it for their own selfish interests. It becomes more of a repulsive mystery when it is seen as institutional and integral partofreligionwhich fundamentallyshould avoid it. Between April and July 1994, the media ofthe world brought images ofthe mostviolent episode ofRwandan history into the living rooms ofthis planet's population. The magnitude ofthe genocide of 1994 was unprecedented in this century. Up to one million of people are estimated to have been killed within only one hundred days. It is difficult to understand the magnitude ofthis violence. Tribal conflicts in Rwanda, colonial powers, political manipulations and economic problems alone are not enough to explain whathas happened. Political analysts, sociologists, anthropologists have tried to understand whetherthe political instability ofthe late 80s, the malfunction of political institutions, the October War (1990-94) and the 40Malachie Munyaneza consequent war atrocities could have necessarily culminated in the genocide the world witnessed. Fundamental questions about the whole philosophy oflife and religion in the history ofRwandaand its relationship to violence are to be addressed too, because they touch the inner being of the outward physical person. People have the right to know what has gone wrong all along in all areas of their life. This paper will try to look at religious beliefs and violence as institution in ancient and modern Rwanda in its magico-religious context and its implications in the social structure. As I am only a debutante Girardian, I will discuss only the key terms ofhis theory—mimesis, desire and scapegoating—as they guide my reflections. ?. Religious beliefs and violence Generally, Rwanda is viewed as a monotheistic country. All Rwandan ethnic groups believed in the only one heavenly Superior Being called Imana. Though Rwandansrecognized Imanaasthe SupremeBeing, Creator and Sustainer ofall life, they did not have a special service ofworship to him at a central place. They thought it was temerity to try and please or influence God because ifyou try you would not find enough to match his greatness and his merits. A Rwandan saying tells that you cannot handle God because ifyoutryyou would paydearly.1 Imana is the Ancientofdays as it is expressed in the name "Habiyakare"(He is before the first dawn). He is all-knowing as in the name "Bizimana" (they [all things] are known by God). He rules over everything as King, Judge and Master as expressed in the name "Hategekimana" (everywhere it is God who rules). Unfortunately Rwandans believedthatwhatever befell them was pre-ordained by God and most ofthe time fatalism dominated their lives. They confronted violence or fate with resignation thinking that the origin is in God's will or from angry spirits they did not control. Rwandans also believe in the existence ofa spiritual realm. The spirits of the dead lived further and roamed about. They would come back to trouble their relatives, especially when they felt some duties due to them were neglected. They could even kill through sickness, insanity or provoke infertility. They hold people under the siege ofconstant mental terror. The spirits most feared were the ones from those who had died in unfortunate 1St Paul expressed the same idea in his discourse at Athens and said: "The god who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by the human hands, as ifhe need anything..." (Acts 1 7, 24-25). Violence as Institution in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 39-68
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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