04 Jul

After visiting the Nyamagana Dam, I headed to Christ the King Catholic parish. On my way to the church, built in 1935, I saw a myriad of schools. Mater Dei, Marie Reine, Igihozo St. Peter, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Joseph, St. Louis de Montfort, and Christ Roi, among others.

Upon arrival, I saw a giant statue of Christ the King. This is where King Mutara III Rudahigwa said his humble prayer dedicating Rwanda to Christ the King in 1946.

The history of Christianity in Rwanda dates back to 1900 when a delegation of missionaries visited Rudahigwa’s predecessor, King Yuhi V Musinga. Led by Monsignor Jean-Joseph Hirth, the visitors successfully secured land in the present-day Southern Province. It is on this piece of land where the first Catholic diocese in Rwanda was constructed.

Despite his welcoming gesture, King Musinga didn’t embrace Christianity. He refused to be baptized, and reportedly, cursed his own children who became Christians. He was perceived as anti-Christian by the Belgian colonialists and the church.

In 1931, King Musinga was deposed by the Belgians. His son (Rudahigwa) became the first Rwandan king to embrace Christianity. He was baptized Charles Léon Pierre in 1943. His conversion spearheaded a wave of baptisms and wide-spread Catholicism in the protectorate.

I left the area with mixed feelings. As a Christian myself, I am supposed to applaude the successful penetration of the church in my country and commend its massive investment in education. However, the religious institution's collaboration with the Belgian colonialists makes me question the hidden motives of those behind its establishment.