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Chaplains of the Militia: The tangled story of the Catholic church during Rwanda's genocide (Guardian Shorts Book 12) [Kindle Edition]

Chris McGreal
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The 1994 Rwandan genocide was the last great bloodletting of the century that came to define organised mass killing. 800,000 Tutsis were murdered by their Hutu countrymen, ordinary citizens joining in the killing alongside militia and army. The violence was driven by incendiary politicians and generals. But one global institution stands accused of complicity in the mass killings and protecting some of the murderers to this day.

The Catholic church should have been at the forefront of moral opposition to the massacres. Instead it was virtually silent as churches across Rwanda were turned into human slaughterhouses, compromised by an archbishop closely allied with the politicians behind the genocide. Some clergy courageously resisted the killers but their bishops were not there to back them. Other priests and nuns joined the murderers, overseeing the torture and slaughter of citizens who had turned to the church for refuge. After the violence ended, the Vatican spirited guilty members of the clergy out of the country, and over time, quietly worked them into parishes across Europe.

Chaplains of the Militia is the extraordinary story of those priests accused of complicity in genocide. Chris McGreal takes us from Rwanda in 1994, where he stood among the bodies at one of the many massacres in churches, to modern day France in pursuit of a priest notorious during the genocide for wearing a gun and selecting victims for the machete-waving militia. He investigates the roots of the Catholic church’s complicity in the ideology that underpinned the mass killings, confronting bishops and priests with a past some would rather forget. And, in an echo of the scandal over paedophile priests, he exposes the Vatican’s continued protection of clergy with blood on their hands.


Chris McGreal was the Guardian’s Africa correspondent for 13 years. He has also been based in Jerusalem and Washington DC for the Guardian. Chaplains of the Militia explores the genocide which McGreal first reported on 20 years ago, and why the story is far from over.



“An essential and damning work. McGreal’s investigation of the priests who took part in the genocide in Rwanda, and of the criminal complicity of the Vatican and other churches that continue to shelter their blood-stained clergy from the law, is a sober and sobering indictment of the betrayal of humanity in the name of God. The story it tells should be read widely.” - Philip Gourevitch, author of ‘We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda’

"The sheer evil of the Rwandan genocide and the hypocrisy, deceit and moral cowardice that defined the world’s responses to it are distilled in the story of the extraordinarily sinister Catholic priest around whom this gripping book is built. Chris McGreal, one of the great contemporary reporters on Africa, tracks the priest down and finds that, two decades after a horror in which he bloodily took part, he remains at large in France, still exercising his holy duties with the protection and blessing of his congregation, the Vatican and the French state." - John Carlin, author of 'Playing the Enemy', basis for the film 'Invictus'

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1441 KB
  • Print Length: 88 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: The Guardian (30 Mar. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #234,674 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Shameful 27 Nov. 2014
By Jim B
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Harrowing account of the atrocities and the shameful role of the Catholic church. A useful antidote for some of the partisan journalism which was current at the time. Many people remain blissfully unaware of the sheer scale of the tragedy that is Central Africa - no Band Aid Christmas song for them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly written and devastating account 15 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Chris McGreal's book is a devastating and incisive story of the appalling complicity of the Catholic Church in Rwanda before and during the 1994 genocide. His scrupulous, unerring eye leaves nothing - and nobody - hiding in the shadows. I was utterly gripped by the riveting quality of the book - it was hard to put down - and the staggering revelations. McGreal is a brilliant journalist and his work - for the Guardian and here - is essential reading. As a recent author of a book on Rwanda, I am left in awe at McGreal's outstanding journalism and brilliant storytelling.
David Belton, Author, When The Hills Ask For Your Blood.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A graphic and compelling read 26 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a powerful account of the role of the Catholic church in the horrors of the Rwanda genocide 20 years, told with Chris McGreal's characteristic eye for human stories and vivid detail while never losing sight of the hugely important overarching theme. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant journalist; Brilliant book 23 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
By way of full disclosure I should start by saying that I've worked with Chris McGreal on stories in both South Africa and the US and he's a first class journalist with a keen eye for both complexities and stereotypes combined with an uncanny ability to get people to talk openly. As the Guardian's Africa correspondent for more than a decade it's not hard to see why he wanted to write this gripping account of the moral collapse of the church in the Rwandan genocide.
He graphically describes the horror of walking through the corpses of thousands of people murdered inside a Rwandan church turned human abattoir in 1994. But far from abandoning the story there 20 years later he visits another church, this time in rural France, looking for answers from a Rwandan priest who spent the genocide with a gun on his hip selecting people to die.
The book's value resides in the incredible picture he paints of the stunning institutional and ethical denial within the church to reckon with the sheer depravity of what occurred. Priests murdered their own congregations. One had 2,000 people bulldozed inside his church and the survivors shot. The country's archbishop allied himself with the genocide regime. His bishops refused to condemn the government organising the extermination of the Tutsis.
How did the church become complicit in mass murder? McGreal finds answers among the survivors of the terror in the churches who saw their own children murdered or were forced into buying their lives by agreeing to sex with the priest.
But some of the most telling insights come from the clerics themselves. McGreal confronts one Rwandan bishop with a long forgotten letter he signed as a young priest four decades ago that called Tutsis “cockroaches”. The cleric begs him not to make the letter public.
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