Friday, June 30, 2006

Shoot those idiots who won't separate! (40 Seminarians)

“There were very many of them, a hundred it seemed to me. They entered our dormitory, the one of the three classes of the senior years, and they shot in the air four times to wake us up.... Immediately they began to threaten us, and moving between the beds they ordered us to separate, Hutus on one side and Tutsis on the other. They were armed to the teeth: rifles, grenades, pistols, and knives. But we stayed together as a group. Then their leader lost patience and gave the order: ‘Shoot these idiots who won't separate.’ They fired the first shots at the ones under the beds. As we lay in our blood, we prayed and begged pardon lot those who were killing us. I heard the voices of my companions who were saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Deep within, I uttered the same words and offered my life into God's hands.” This was the testimony of Jolique Rusimbamigera, a survivor of the massacre which happened on the dawn of April 30, 1997, in the minor seminary in Buta, Burundi.

Even before the massacre, the seminarians made it a point to live in Christian fraternity, despite their different racial backgrounds and the tribal war going on outside the seminary. For them, love of Christ and of their neighbors was more important than ethnic backgrounds. The seminarians had just finished an Easter retreat before they died. Fr. Nicolas Niyungeko, rector of the seminary in Bura, wrote of the seminarians, “At the end of the retreat, this class was enlivened by a new kind of spirit, which seemed to be a preparation for the holy death of these innocents. Full of rejoicing and joy, the word in their mouths was "God is good and we have met Him." They spoke of heaven as if they had just come from it, and of the priesthood as if they had just been ordained. One realized that something very strong had happened in their heart, without knowing exactly what it was. From that day on, they prayed, they sang, they danced to church, happy to discover, as it were, the treasure of Heaven.”

It was about five in the morning on April 30 when the rebels arrived the seminary. They went into the room and woke up the seminarians with sounds of gunshots. The seminarians became afraid and hid under their beds. “Separate yourselves!” they shout. “Hutus on one side and Tutsis on the other.” The students immediately understood what that meant. If they followed the rebels’ orders, their Tutsi classmates would be massacred in front of their eyes. They refused, remaining under the beds, as the rebels continued to shoot at them. When the students didn’t move, the rebels threatened to use machetes to kill all of them. The students crawled out from under the beds and moved, together, outside the dormitory. The students still refused to separate into two groups. Angry and willing to wait no longer, the rebels threw a grenade into their midst and shot them with their guns, killing 40 of them and wounding many others. One of the martyrs was a student who tried to bring his wounded friend to the hospital, but was killed on the way.

Jolique said that the martyrdom of his brothers was a miracle, everyone was prepared. To the question how he feels about the murderers, Jolique replied, “I pray that the sacrifice of the murdered students and our suffering will lead the soldiers who caused this suffering to their own conversion.”


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