Survivors of the genocide in Rwanda are moving toward Islam, reports the Washington Post (Sept. 23).
The state-sponsored massacres between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples in 1994 implicated many Catholic and Protestant clergy and churches, who failed to protect, and in some cases, informed on those seeking refuge from the violence. In contrast, many Muslim leaders and families protected and hid those who were fleeing. Some observers say that because Muslims were an ostracized minority, they were less likely to get caught up in the Hutus’ massacres.
Since the genocide, Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people in Africa’s most Catholic nation — twice as many as before the massacres started. The conversion rate is high enough for Catholic Rwandan leaders to seek the counsel of Rome in how to stop the influx, as well as offer alternative programs to draw and keep youth in its ranks.
While Western leaders worry that large-scale conversion to Islam could trigger a tendency toward militancy. But there are few signs of extremism in Rwanda, even though some of the mosques receive funding from Saudia Arabia (whose clergy tend to be of the militant school of Islam). There is talk of “jihad” in the mosques, but it refers less to outward war than to the struggle Muslim imams call theie people to wage for healing and reconciliation between Tutsis and Hutus.