“If martyrdom is recognized, the Rugamba family will be canonized”

Jean-Luc Moens is Belgian and a mathematician by training. Married and a father, from 2018 to 2021 he was the moderator of Charis, the Vatican’s international service for charismatic renewal. For 30 years he has been committed to evangelization within the Emmanuel community. He tells us about this Rwandan couple and their family who, in the years leading up to the Tutsi genocide, made a profession of faith and founded the Emmanuel Church in that country.

How do you know the Rugamba couple?

When the couple came to Paray-le-Monial (Saône-et-Loire) in the summer of 1989 for the meeting organized by the Emmanuel Community, I was there. I hosted the vigil where Cyprien witnessed his amazing conversion, the fruit of his wife Daphrose’s heroic faith and faithfulness. Then, in September 1990, I was sent to Rwanda to visit the Fideco volunteers and I stayed with the Rugamba. One day I asked her: Why don’t you found the Emmanuel community in your country? Adventure in which they embarked with passion shortly afterwards.

During this stay a wonderful friendship developed between us. It has grown over the years and continues to grow beyond death. I have lived near saints without realizing it because God is seen only from behind and holiness is seen only when it is too late!

What were your feelings upon the announcement of her murder?

unbelief and great sadness. When Cyprien called me on the morning of April 7th to say how tense the situation was in Kigali since President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down the day before, I couldn’t believe the worst could happen to them. “Please pray for us, we need it” he asked me. I called him back an hour later. He was in the chapel of their home where they had prayed all night as a family before the Holy of Holies.

He explained to me that soldiers were in their neighbors’ house and that bullets were whistling everywhere. He was serious but peaceful. As for me, I was still in disbelief. When I called again an hour later, there was no answer. I insisted, in vain. I was very concerned but far from imagining that one of the worst genocides in human history was beginning or that my friends had just been murdered in their backyard. Only Cyrdard, one of the sons, had miraculously survived the massacre.

Why was Cyprien a character to be eliminated?

As a poet and composer he was as well known in his country as Johnny Hallyday was in France. He worked all his life for the unity of his people. Because of the uniqueness of language and culture, she proclaimed that there were no Hutu or Tutsi, only Rwandans.

After his conversion, Cyprien did not change his language. He deepened it with the assurance that henceforth the Rwandans are all brothers because they are all children of God. The poet became a prophet who called for conversion and courageously denounced the evils suffered by the society of his time (corruption, injustice, partisanship and fanaticism, etc.) and whose catastrophic consequences he foresaw.

He was a bit like the conscience of the country, the one who spoke to the people in the name of the Lord. This cantor of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace could only be frowned upon by a Hutu majority regime that advocated division and “ethnicity”. Cyprien was an obstacle to his plans for ethnic elimination. So he had to be silenced. One day a priest entrusted that to me“In Rugamba we killed God because he spoke in the name of God”.

Would they therefore have died as martyrs?

In 2018, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints combined the two beatification cases opened in 2015 against Cyprian and Daphrose for heroic virtues into one for reputation of martyrdom, adding the children murdered with them (six of their children and their niece). . The files are now in Rome and it is up to the Church to decide whether they were in fact killed out of hatred of the Christian faith and virtues.

Many indications point in this direction, it seems to me. For example, as soon as the gate opened, the leader of the soldiers spoke to Cyprien, who was coming towards him, and said: “So, Rugamba, are you still a Christian? » His answer is shocking: “Yes, I am very Christian. My dancer’s costume is ready when the king calls me. I will enter the sky dancing. » Then, realizing her time was near, Daphrose asked permission to greet Jesus one last time in the Blessed Sacrament. She received a butt in response, and one of the soldiers shot at the tabernacle.

This sacrifice, which took place on April 7th, is the result of a life of sacrifice. One does not die as a martyr by accident: it takes many small “yes” to get to the big “yes”.

What message does the Rugamba family send us?

What impresses me is not only the holiness of the couple, which reveals the power of grace of the sacrament of marriage, but also that of the family. If the martyrdom is acknowledged, the entire Rugamba family will be canonized.

This would be a strong sign for our time, an extraordinary hope for families: the Church would show that the institution of the family, which is under attack so severely today, is an irreplaceable place of encounter with the Lord, of learning to give and love, of mutual support together in to go to heaven, a true place of sanctification. Yes, the holiness of the parents reflects that of the children and vice versa.

Don’t they also testify that death does not have the last word?

Exactly. By killing her, her assassins only managed to bring her into real life, make her famous and fruitful, and encourage a multitude of people to follow her example. In this way, a good twenty brothers and sisters of the Emmanuel community died like them during the genocide, that is, like Christ: giving their lives to the uttermost for love.

Because they shared in the sufferings of Christ’s passion, the Rugamba also experienced the power of his resurrection. Also, they died in the Easter octave. They are more alive than ever and invite us to trust in God who conquered death on the cross.

If you have received graces Through the intercession of the Rugamba family, please report it to the following address: cause_rugamba@emmanuelco.org

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