A life at the service of others

Born the 12th of December 1964, Abbot Baudouin is the fourth of a family of eight children. After his primary studies in Rwabidege, in his hometown of Karengera (Cyangugu), he joins the minor seminary of Nyunbo and then the major seminary of Nyakibanda. He is ordained as a priest by Pope Jean-Paul II, the 8th of September 1990, in Kabgayi, during the historic visit of his Holy Father to Rwanda. He begins his priestly functions in the parish of Muyange and Shangi, both in the commune of Gafunzo, in Cyangugu. When the genocide begins in 1994, he is staying in the parish of Nkanka.

The day after the assassination of president Habyarimana, the 7th of April 1994, the Tutsi from that region take shelter in the parish of Nkanka. It’s the rainy season; they are first housed inside the church. Later, the parish priest asks them to go stay in the rooms of the neighbouring primary school. The priests first give them supplies that they have in stock, but they soon run out. They then request the help of the Diocesan Caritas of Cyangugu, which provide bags of rice, beans and flour.

From their arrival at the parish, Abbot Baudouin is concerned about the situation of the refugees. He gives his own coat to a shivering refugee soaked by water. A mother gives birth, Abbot Busunyu does everything he can to find her something to drink and eat as well as clothes for the newborn. He also opposes himself in vain to the decision of the parish priest to house the refugees in the primary school, estimating that they will be more at risk of attacks by the Interahmwe. The afternoon of the 8th of April, the Interahamwe arrive armed. Abbot Busunyu rushes to meet them and asks them what they are looking for. They say that they are here to kill Tutsi, “the cockroaches”, named as such to dehumanize them. The abbot talks with them and manages to reason with them making them understand that the Tutsi are their former neighbours, children of Gods, just like them. The militia leaves. The next day, they come back and the Abbot manages to convince them a second time to leave.

The 10th of April, during the dominical Mass at 11 am, the Tutsi refugees realise that some Hutu attending the Mass are involved in the attacks and looting of their houses, they’re even wearing the stolen clothes. Yet, the parish priest doesn’t condemn these shameful acts from Christians, he tells the refugees that they won’t attend the dominical Mass at 11 am anymore, but they will have a separated celebration each Sunday night. Thereafter, the attacks of the Interahamwe are multiplied and the refugees of the primary school go back to the church. In the beginning, the militia attack in small number, and the refugees push them back.

The 17th of April, while he is celebrating the night Mass for the refugees, helped by Abbot Baudouin, the parish priest leaves the ceremony all of a sudden and doesn’t come back. Abbot Baudouin continues on his own. The next day around 9 o’clock, the Interahamwe, in very large number, armed with machetes and clubs, accompanied by the army, local policemen, and burgomasters, armed with grenades and guns, massacre a thousand people. They sack the health centre.

While the killings were held, Abbot Baudoiun braved his fear and rushed to hide the survivors: some in his own bedroom, others in the ceiling or others in the cupboards. He protects them as much as he can and when the Interahamwe come for them, he gives them money. He continues this way until they all leave. All the people he hid are still alive today. At the Nkanka parish, they are mainly women and children left. Abbot Baudouin cries when he discovers the bodies of the victims. Nevertheless, he continues to celebrate the mass for the survivors and comforts them. Having seen several of his parishioners participate in the massacre, he refuses to give them Communion.