Adventists Apologize

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Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2003

The Silver Spring-based Seventh-day Adventist Church has apologized for the role of two of its members in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

“We acknowledge with sadness that some of our church members turned against their fellow members and their neighbors,” spokesman Ray Dabrowski said in a statement Wednesday after the conviction of a church official and his son by a United Nations tribunal in Tanzania. “We are saddened that the accused did not act in harmony with the principles of their church. We offer an apology.”

The tribunal ruled that Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, 78, at the time a regional president of the church, and his son, Gerard Ntakirutimana, 45, a physician at Mugonero Adventist Hospital, assisted Hutu gangs in killing Tutsis who had taken refuge at a Seventh-day Adventist complex in Mugonero and at a church in Bisesero. The April attacks resulted in the deaths of “a large number of men, women and children,” the indictment said.

The father, who moved to Laredo, Tex., in 1994 and was extradited to Tanzania in 2000, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for aiding and abetting in genocide. The son received 25 years for participating in genocide and for crimes against humanity (murder).

The tribunal has convicted 10 people and acquitted one person of genocide-related charges, and it is pursuing cases against 20 others.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has about 350,000 members in Rwanda and operates three schools, one hospital and nine clinics there, Dabrowski said. An estimated 10,000 members died in the inter-tribal conflict nine years ago.

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