Overwhelmed by the loss of their priest and shepherd, the parishioners of Kivumu write to the bishop of Kabgayi, for the funeral Mass to be held in the church that Brother Vjeko contributed to the bringing to life and building of, and that he be buried there. The day of the funeral, numerous members of the Order of the Franciscans, from all around the world, are present. The prime minister of Rwanda, Pierre-Célestin Rwigema, and other members of the government have also travelled to be there. Hundreds of Christians, Catholics and people of other confessions have come to weep for Brother Vjeko. Despite this enormous crowd, it’s time for gathering and contemplation.
The ceremony finishes with the speech from the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minors; Giacomo Bini that mentions first the words, sadly premonitory, that Brother Vjeko said a few months later: “Those I’ve saved will kill me”. The Franciscan quotes, to conclude, the Gospel of John (Jn 10, 17b-18a): “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord”.
Brother Vjeko gave his life for Rwanda; he left his footprint, especially in Kivumu: the houses which he had funded the construction, a professional school which has his name, etc. Two years before his death, Brother Vjeko just miraculously escaped an assassination attempt. But he insisted: “I came to Rwanda to help these people, I stayed with them during the war. I will stay till the end”. And that’s what he did.
The population of Kivumu is now orphan. Every year, the anniversary of his death is an opportunity to pay tribute to the one that touched the hearts of his parishioners, by refusing to abandon them. While many other expats were evacuated, Vjeko rose up next to the population of Kivumu, during the darkest hours of their lives. He openly denounced the use of any violence, and continued to preach the value of peace and unity during the whole of the genocide and beyond.
Nobody in Kivumu can forget the kindness and the compassion of this man. Brother Vjeko was a sun for Rwanda. However, he only applied all his life, the words of the founder of his Order, Saint Francis of Assisi: “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received; only what you have given »1.
1 The Order of the Franciscans, as well as the province from which Vjeko comes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, received a particular acknowledgment for the work of Brother Vjeko. It is said that it was asked that his remains be repatriated to his country of origin.