In April 1994, in one of the most Christian nations in Africa, genocidal violence erupted culminating in the deaths of upwards of one million people. While thousands participated in mass killings, others choose not to, and rescued persecuted individuals instead. Relying on 45 in-depth interviews with individuals who rescued others in Rwanda, we demonstrate that religion is tied to rescue efforts in at least three ways: 1) through the creation of cognitive safety nets that enabled high-risk actions; 2) through religious practices that isolated individuals from the social networks of those committing the violence; and 3) through religious social networks where individuals encountered opportunities and accessed resources to rescue. The case of rescue in Rwanda illustrates how religiosity can support high-risk collective action, buffer individuals from recruitment to violent social movements, and can connect individuals in ways that enable them to save lives during extreme political violence.
We would like to thank the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Constant H. Jacquet Research Award for generous funding for this research.
Fox, Nicole; Nyseth Brehm, Hollie; and Gasasira, John Gasana
"The Impact of Religious Beliefs, Practices, and Social Networks on Rwandan Rescue Efforts During Genocide,"
Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal:
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/gsp/vol15/iss1/9
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