July 4 is Liberation Day in Rwanda, and while it coincides with the beginning of the end of the genocide that killed a million (or 70% of) Tutsi persons in a hundred day slaughter from April to July 1994, “liberation” did not bring an end to the violence. In April 1995, the Tutsi-majority “Rwanda Patriotic Army” conducted a massacre against Hutu in a displaced persons camp in Kibeho.
The Australian artist George Gittoes was at the camp, accompanying Australian Defence Forces in their part in the United Nations mission in the country, and he painted the harrowing “The Preacher” based on what he witnessed—a man reading to others from the New Testament as the killing took place around them.
Strangely, Kibeho had been since the early 1980s a place where marian apparitions were located, some depicting the Virgin Mary not only announcing that “the world conducts itself very badly,” but in disturbing dialogue with her devotees about rivers of blood, the country on fire, and people slaughtering one another.
Today Kibeho is a place of pilgrimage: www.kibeho-shrine.com
George Gittoes won the Blake Prize for Religious Art for “The Preacher,” of which there are several close variants, one of which hangs in the chapel of Ridley College, Melbourne, an image that confronts those training for ministry each time they gather for worship.
Read Rod Pattenden on George Gittoes’ art here: https://www.scan.net.au/scan/magazine/display.php?journal_id=30 and here: https://www.litpress.org/Products/5399/Visual-Theology
The Blake Prize: www.facebook.com/TheBlakePrize
The Kibeho massacre:
Images below: The Kibeho Shrine and Our Lady of Kibeho, www.kibeho-shrine.com