Presentation of Juvénal Kabera, Rwandan Secular Franciscan in memory of the victims of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda in 1994
Juvénal Kabera, catholic originally from the Kigoma Parish in the diocese of Kabgayi in the District of Ruhango, was born in 1959 in a family of 4 children. Because of his life of simplicity, generosity, humility and dedication, his spirit of service, he had opted for Franciscan spirituality since 1983, and was minister in the Secular Franciscan Order in Rwanda from October 3rd1993 until April 1994 for a period of 6 months prior his death on April 7th 1994 at the age of 35years.
Who is Juvénal Kabera?
Juvénal Kabera was born in the ancient prefecture of Gitarama, Kigoma Common, Mukingo sector (Actual District of Ruhango) in 1959 in a family of four children. He attends primary school from 1966-1972 in Mukingo where he passes the exam for the Small Seminary in Butare but not having studied there because the parish priest of Gatagara later informed him that the places had been reduced and that it was not possible for him to go and from then on his idea of becoming a priest did not continue to emerge. Juvénal Kabera continued his thirst to be in communion with God and he always went to mass, prayer meetings, retreats, in the basic ecclesial community especially of the Secular Franciscan Order. His younger brother, who lived with him, remembers him in these words: «Since 1988, I have observed important changes in the Christian journey of Juvénal Kabera and he had made great strides in generosity. Many poor came to him and he gave lodging to many Franciscan members and other passer-by without putting himself out».
In 1992, when the inhabitants of North Rwanda (Byumba and Ruhengeri) had moved toward the City of Kigali, fleeing the war raging in the region, Juvénal had shown that Jesus had given him the mission to assist those persons displaced by the war and each Saturday he gave them supplies and prayed with them. He was too generous and he loved to say: «I am sure that God is Most-Powerful and Merciful and only He can end the war ravaging Rwanda».
On April 7th 1994, around 11:00 p.m., their home was attacked by the Interahamwe militia and they killed Juvénal Kabera, still single, after having pillaged everything he had in his house. He died at the age of 35.
Juvénal Kabera’s Franciscan life and the journey of reconciliation for Franciscans in Rwanda
From the moment that the first Friars Minor arrived in 1983, Juvénal Kabera was among the first persons to start in the Secular Franciscan Order.in Rwanda. He was professed with 10 other brothers and sisters, on October 3rd 1993 ten years after the arrival of the Friars. The first members of the OFS in Rwanda also joined him and soon Juvénal Kabera was elected minister of the fraternity of «Ste Marie des Anges». During prayers, meetings and activities of the fraternity, he was always happy and brought joy to others. His advice was always evangelical edifying for all and he urged them to conversion. He died 6 months into his mandate.
The Franciscan Family in Rwanda has lost other members among the more than 1 million Tutsi who had been killed during the Tutsi genocide in 1994 and we can name Brother George Gashugi (ofm), killed April 18th 1994. Before his death, Br. Gashugi said: «The Lord has healed me of this great wound of hatred, now I am free to pray for the people who kill, for those who have been killed, for those who keep the souvenir and this hatred in their heart so that they can be healed. One may ask me for my life: I will offer it so that my people can learn to love one another and live together».
During the genocide, of the remaining 10 members of the OFS, some had left Rwanda for exile, certain others had remained, and others have returned to Rwanda. Those persons returning have come together under very difficult conditions, hearts torn by the genocide but they continue to be a sign of unity and reconciliation in the country by helping orphans, widowers/widows and other impoverished persons. Two years later, those who had gone into exile in the Congo have returned and were warmly greeted. They are committed to supporting their brethren on the journey of reconciliation. Actually, the members of OFS and the Franciscan Family in general in Rwanda, perform apostolate work in the prisons and in Rwandan society especially in helping families materially and spiritually by insisting on a journey of reconciliation and healing of individual wounds and in community health programs for the victims of the genocide and for those who have accepted their role in the 1994 Tutsi genocide as well as in the rest of the Rwandan society in view of unity and reconciliation between Rwandans.
Valens Hafashimana – OFS of Rwanda
Note from editorial staff
We invite you to read again the letter of OFS General Constitutions promulgation in which the Minister General at that time in charge, Emanuela De Nunzio recalls Juvenal to stimulate OFS members to the holiness