Mass commemorates genocide victims
Charlie Ducey | Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Twenty years after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, members of the Notre Dame community commemorated the lives of the victims and prayed for healing with a memorial mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Monday, April 7.
Some 1 million Rwandans perished during one hundred days of violence directed by Hutu Rwandans against Tutsi Rwandans. In addition to remembering the immense loss of life, the mass memorialized four members of the Congregation of Holy Cross who perished in the genocide: Brothers Eulade Gasasira, Jean-Baptiste Mundeli, Leonard Karemangingo and Fr. Claude Simard.
Alice Cyusa, a Notre Dame budgets and grants coordinator who is from Rwanda, organized the event with the help of Dr. Catherine Bolten of the Kellogg Institute of International Studies and Fr. Paul Kollman. She said the mass emphasized prayer and remembrance as forms of memorial.
“As a Christian [and] as a Catholic, I think a memorial mass is the best way to celebrate the lives of lost loved ones, but also the best way to support genocide survivors,” Cyusa said. “Here in South Bend, we have many Rwandan genocide survivors. Praying with them and for them and asking God to continue to strengthen their faith is very important to me.”
Cyusa said April 7 has served as a day of remembrance for the Rwandan genocide since the initial tragedy, making it the ideal day for the memorial mass.
“Every year on April 7, people from all over the world come together with Rwandans to learn about and commemorate the genocide against the Tutsi,” Cyusa said.
Cyusa said this memorial mass was important for the Notre Dame community due to its focus Holy Cross brothers and priests.
“For the first time, we celebrated the lives of the CSC brothers who were killed during the genocide,” Cyusa said.
At the international level, Cyusa said the twentieth anniversary will be commemorated through the Kwibuka 20 movement. Cyusa said “kwibuka” means “remember” in Kinyarwanda and describes a commitment to renewal and unity valued by the Rwandan people.
“Rwandans are resilient people,” Cyusa said. “Rwanda as a nation, as one people overcame hatred as many of the perpetrators came forward and asked for forgiveness. In Rwanda, survivors, victims and neighbors are united with people who participated in the genocide. That is the Rwandan spirit, to which Rwanda owes the survival.”