Chaplains of the Militia: The tangled story of the Catholic church during Rwanda’s genocide
The 1994 Rwandan genocide was the last great bloodletting of the century that came to define organised mass killing. 800,000 Tutsis were murdered by their Hutu countrymen, ordinary citizens joining in the killing alongside militia and army. The violence was driven by incendiary politicians and generals. But one global institution stands accused of complicity in the mass killings and protecting some of the murderers to this day.
The Catholic church should have been at the forefront of moral opposition to the massacres. Instead it was virtually silent as churches across Rwanda were turned into human slaughterhouses, compromised by an archbishop closely allied with the politicians behind the genocide. Some clergy courageously resisted the killers but their bishops were not there to back them. Other priests and nuns joined the murderers, overseeing the torture and slaughter of citizens who had turned to the church for refuge. After the violence ended, the Vatican spirited guilty members of the clergy out of the country, and over time, quietly worked them into parishes across Europe.
Chaplains of the Militia is the extraordinary story of those priests accused of complicity in genocide. Chris McGreal takes us from Rwanda in 1994, where he stood among the bodies at one of the many massacres in churches, to modern day France in pursuit of a priest notorious during the genocide for wearing a gun and selecting victims for the machete-waving militia. He investigates the roots of the Catholic church’s complicity in the ideology that underpinned the mass killings, confronting bishops and priests with a past some would rather forget. And, in an echo of the scandal over paedophile priests, he exposes the Vatican’s continued protection of clergy with blood on their hands.
“An essential and damning work. McGreal’s investigation of the priests who took part in the genocide in Rwanda, and of the criminal complicity of the Vatican and other churches that continue to shelter their blood-stained clergy from the law, is a sober and sobering indictment of the betrayal of humanity in the name of God. The story it tells should be read widely.” - Philip Gourevitch, author of ‘We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda’
“The sheer evil of the Rwandan genocide and the hypocrisy, deceit and moral cowardice that defined the world’s responses to it are distilled in the story of the extraordinarily sinister Catholic priest around whom this gripping book is built. Chris McGreal, one of the great contemporary reporters on Africa, tracks the priest down and finds that, two decades after a horror in which he bloodily took part, he remains at large in France, still exercising his holy duties with the protection and blessing of his congregation, the Vatican and the French state.” - John Carlin, author of Playing the Enemy, basis for the film Invictus