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Faith and crime in an old and civilised world

By Rutagengwa Claude Shema

Regional Coordinator

Great Lakes Peace Initiative (GLPI)

Author Biography

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Faith can be seen as part of our daily life. It is also a part of our culture. And the culture is not something we have at birth. We learn it during our childhood and youth from our parents, family, elders, teachers, religious leaders, media,etc...

Before the arrival of western religion to many African and Asian countries, those countries had their own manner of faith. The influence of western faith as a new culture has made many positive and negative changes in traditions/cultures in many countries, especially poor ones. The impacts of new culture into a traditional culture are very good input. But, unfortunately, we have enormous negative impacts from the new culture too. Many conflicts have been increased in the world because of the mixture of two different cultures.





A new culture related to religion and faith has emerged in many poor countries, especially in Africa and Asia. This so called "Western-pure culture" was brought by missionaries in the last 2 centuries, and has erased the so called "old/indigenous-traditional culture" in many poor countries. Now the impact of changing cultures from the old one to the new one is enormous.

Many things have been changed, and human dignity faces danger.

For instance in Rwanda, a very poor African country, before the arrival of western missionaries ,criminality was more or less absent. Because of the strong friendship which existed between Rwandese people, all Rwandese citizens were called "Abanyarwanda"=Rwandese. They have had meaningful names, like Shema=pride, and a father's name like Rutagengwa=indomitable. Then Banyarwanda were forced to be called western's meaningless names like"Claude=???, Peter=Rock, etc...

With Christianity, all those meaningful names became evil names and meaningless ones given by missionaries. Then Rwandese had to choose between Evil-Devil and God .In doing so, missionaries were very tricky and powerful. They were ruling a country together with colonial masters - after Rwandese leaders who could bow down to the missionaries’ knees. They had guns, while the Banyarwanda had spears. If anyone disagreed, death was imminent. Just to intimidate all those who wanted to disagree with them. Then Banyarwanda had to obey by force. Those missionaries took advantage of the primitiveness of Banyarwanda, too, by giving them some clothes because they hadn't any, etc.

The tradition-culture of Banyarwanda was really precious in terms of co-existence in peace and harmony among themselves. One of the principles of deep tradition-culture of Banyarwanda was that none in any case is allowed to betray anyone. And they had a very significant friendship contract called "Igihango" by sharing blood (just to get a little blood from your friend or friend of your friend, and drink it as a symbol of togetherness, or signifying that you are the same blood/soul/body=we are one person).This had a strong positive impact on Rwandese society and contributed a lot to peace and harmony among the Rwandese for a long time. None could commit any crime to a friend of your friend, and you had to be careful and be gentle wherever you were so that you would not harm a friend or unknown friend of your friend.

Actually, they have been doing this, with a deep consciousness of avoiding a crime, because a crime leads to the "umuvumo" (punished severally by God) according to them.

But with the Catholic Church, that was pagan culture, old culture, because the priests taught Banyarwanda that committing any crime is normal and natural, and it’s most important to confess before a Catholic Priest. Then crimes started to took place because there was only confession in return. And the Genocide took place in 1994, with huge direct and indirect involvement of Catholic church leaders.

This kind of cultural influence in many poor countries also has roots in political, economical and social cover all over the world. Trying to look at the world political situation today, it seems to be faith, or culturally oriented matter, where poor countries are getting support in accordance with their religiously-oriented political influence. Muslims to muslims (Shi'ies-> shi'ies, Sunni -> sunni), Christians -> Christians (Catholics -> Catholics,Protestants -> Protestants etc...).And from this emerges a tension and anger or open conflict related to the so-called culture.





This  kind of civilisation and modernisation has created a huge gap between people of the same planet, and divided fellow citizens into different adversary parties.

Because of differences related to the culture, there is a huge conflict between:

-> Christians vs. Muslims

->Catholics vs. Muslims and other religions

->Shi'ies vs. Sunni or both against other religions

->Religious vs. non-believers (beliefs)

->Traditional conservatives vs.  modernized/civilised world

->Poor vs. rich countries

Many conflicts and wars to come sooner or later, will have enormous numbers of victims pending the death or disability list. Unfortunately, this is a world dilemma and the entire planet will face more and many dangerous criminal actions, many terrorist attacks, even more worse than September 11, or the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and in many other countries.





To figure out what to do or what should be done in this matter, is a huge and complicated task, since culture and deep culture is related to faith and to human psychology. But the most important thing to do is to deal with balance in its all angles and sustainable development.

Of course, more should be done as follows:

->synergical peace actions of the religious

->strengthening tolerance in line with faith and culture

->decreasing level of dependence and exploring new ways of independence

->fighting and defeating selfishness

->decreasing and alleviating imbalance and extremism

->Education, sensitisation and strengthening the human dignity-ubuntu-ubumuntu positive values like integrity, as a pathway back to our cultural roots, and other related valuable matters.