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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Missionary accused of role in Rwandan genocide
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 A Belgian Catholic priest has been charged in Rwanda for an alleged role in the 1994 genocide. Father Guy Theunis of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) worked as a missionary in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, from 1970 until 1994. He was arrested at Kigali airport last Tuesday as he changed planes on a journey from the DR Congo to Belgium. Rwandan prosecutor Emmanuel Rukangira told journalists that Fr Theunis had incited Rwandans to commit genocide by republishing articles from extremist publication Kangura in his Dialogue magazine. The regional head of the White Fathers, Fr Henri Blanchard told Belgian radio he thought it was unlikely that Theunis could have had any involvement in the genocide. "I can't really see how he could be accused of genocide as he was evacuated along with a lot of his countrymen and I remember he was the co-founder of a movement to defend human rights and freedom," Fr Henri Blanchart said. Fr Gérard Chabanon, general superior of the White Fathers said: "We are very disappointed. I do not see how Fr Theunis can emerge quickly from this catastrophic situation. From what we have learned, he has been included in the category of planners. I fear that this will be a long and difficult ordeal and that it could be deferred to an ordinary court." Fr Blanchard said that the White Fathers were now sifting through all the articles in the magazine Fr Theunis edited, in a effort to discover how the accusations could have come about. In a statement released on Thursday, the Rome-based Generalate of the Society said: "It is with much surprise and sadness that we learned of the arrest of our brother, Fr Guy Theunis, last Tuesday night at Kigali airport. The accusation of the Rwandese prosecutor, Emmanuel Rukangira, that associates Fr Theunis, even if indirectly through the periodical Dialogue, to the terrible genocide of 1994, appears to us to be totally unfounded. "Father Theunis was the director of this periodical, in Rwanda, from 1989 to 1992, and in Belgium from 1994 to 1995. Written in French, this periodical describes itself as one 'of information and reflection on all social, economic, cultural, religious and other problems concerning Rwanda. While not being an official Church publication, Dialogue examines the issues from a Christian perspective'. When Fr Theunis was its head, this publication was prepared by an editorial team made up by about 12 people that met every month to discuss articles. The director was never alone in deciding whether or not to publish a text. It is therefore unthinkable that 'articles of extremist publications' could have been published by Dialogue. Perhaps it could have happened that references to these publications have been made to convey an awareness about the danger of such opinions, or to criticise them in such a way that there could not be any doubt as to the nature of the text published. "Human rights and non-violent communication have become, through the years, the main missionary orientations of Fr Theunis. This very same commitment has become that of our Missionary Society. As we cannot understand the reasons of these accusations, which the media has echoed - BBC, CNN, AFP, we hope that our brother will be promptly freed. Meanwhile, we wish to express our deepest solidarity, our communion of thought and the support of our prayer in such difficult times for Fr Theunis. "We also thank the Belgian government, the media, Vatican Radio and all Fr Theunis' numerous friends that have shown their support for him." Father Gérard Chabanon, Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa Source: MISNA/ICN
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