It’s a Thursday morning as I leave office for a bus journey to Southern Province to meet Father Ubald Rugirangoga – a controversial priest mostly known for healing people through prayers at massive crusades.
For the next two hours, the bus speeds through many trading centres along the highway until we finally arrive in Huye town. I take a motor taxi ride for 20 minutes to Butare Diocese.
On entering the Diocese premises, everyone around seems curious about my presence.
A priest approaches with a smiling face asking who I was and how he could help. However, before I respond, a nun intervenes telling the priest that I am a journalist who had an appointment with Father Ubald (who was a visitor in their Diocese.)
I was given a permit to visit around the Diocese while waiting for Father Ubald who was in a meeting with the parish priest.
Within about five minutes, he was out and when he saw me; he excused himself “I am sorry for delaying but welcome and feel at home. Everyone is aware of your presence.” He said, as we shook hands.
Father Ubald was conducting a reconciliation session where he was teaching Genocide perpetrators about love. He gave me access to join the session and hear their discussions.
In his teachings, he explains that what drove people to killing each other was the evil spirits and in order to separate themselves from those spirits they have to free their hearts by saying the truth and ask God and people for forgiveness.
He gives both survivors and perpetrators separate lessons and also allow them to share their pain with him.
During the session, perpetrators spoke about their worries in society; they said society doesn’t consider them as humans. They also feel lesser citizens because they have no right to vote or participate in government programs like one-cow per family. They also said they carry the burden of guilt.
Bigirimana Alphonse said, “I have a big burden because I killed some people that I didn’t know and I wonder who will forgive me on their behalf.”
Another man raised his hand saying, “Some of us are still hiding tools and weapons we used to kill the Tutsi, would you allow us to bring them here?”
These are among many other issues they raise to Father Ubald seeking for his advice and prayers.
Father Ubald survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi where one million people were killed. He has since been preaching about forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation.
Where does Fr. Ubald get healing powers?
For the past 25 years, Father Ubald has served the Catholic Church in Rwanda. He is attached to Cyangugu Diocese of southwestern Rwanda.
He told KT Press that it was in 1991 during morning mass while celebrating Holy Eucharist in Cyangugu Diocese when he performed his first miracle.
Fr.Ubald said the Holy Spirit had revealed to him a man in the congregation that was battling an injury on his leg. However, when he asked fellow priests whether they had seen what he saw, they all denied.
The priest decided to share his revelation to the congregation attending mass. “Among us, there is a man who has been battling with a leg injury but Jesus has healed him,” He said.
Immediately a man in his 30’s responded; “It’s me father, I am healed I can feel it,” the healed man said with joy.
In the same congregation, a woman who had been suffering from backache finally felt relieved but was afraid to testify in public and personally told the priest.
This was the day that transformed Father Ubald. The news about his healing power spread like wild fire in and outside the country.
“Since then things changed, I no longer celebrate mass in churches because people would attend in bigger numbers,”Fr. Ubald told KT Press.
He added that “The gift of knowing who has been healed is the one that attracted people because I believe every priest is capable of praying for his Christians and they get healed.”
Fr. Ubald describes revelations about people getting healed like in a movie and sometimes manifests in form of a voice explaining what he is seeing although at times it comes in different perspectives. Some come as recorded conversations. He then tells the congregation about what the Holy Spirit has revealed to him.
Different dioceses across the country regularly invite Fr.Ubald for crusades although this has put him in collision with other priests and top leadership of the Catholic Church whose doctrine doesn’t condone crusades.
“The powers that people see are not mine, they are for Jesus, it is not me it is Christ through me because all I do is to pray and then Jesus performs his miracles,” Fr. Ubald explained.
“And remember even in the bible Jesus said that those who trust and believe in me shall pray and miracles will be performed and that is what we do,” He said.
Fr. Ubald started praying for people in 1987 but wouldn’t know who had been healed or not. People would come back after one, two three weeks to tell him that they got healed.
“Whether you’re a sinner or believer in any other religion, Jesus heals you as long as you have faith.”
“I know many born again Christians and Muslims healed through my prayers. That is why I say the powers that perform miracles are not mine,” He said.
This priest grew up with a dream of becoming a doctor but today he says he celebrates being a doctor indirectly.
“Today people get healed emotionally, spiritually and physically. And I am happy and thankful about that,” he says laughing.
The gift of healing has helped Fr. Ubald teach about love and forgiveness.
Father Ubald Center of Secret Peace
During the genocide, Fr.Ubald lost many members of his family including his mother. After the Genocide he continued teaching about love however much he was saddened.
“Because of what had happened, I thought people needed to be healed and the only way was to learn to love, forgive and re-unite,” He said.
He took the first step by forgiving the people who killed his mother during the genocide.
“I personally went to initiate contact with the killer of my mother; I became a caretaker of him and his two children. One of them is a girl studying medicine and she is brilliant.” Fr. Ubald says he is proud of her and worries about her tuition.
For him, he did this to demonstrate to society about peace, love and forgiveness,” in order to forgive you have to live it.”
In his teachings, he explains that what drove people to kill each other was the evil spirit. In order to separate themselves from those spirits they have to free their hearts by saying the truth and ask God and people for forgiveness.
“It was and is a battle to fight but the war we shall win. There is no soldier who can win a war without first failing a battle.”
Tough times with catholic church
For Fr.Ubald, some people consider his evangelism work as a form of politicking and his not happy with this.
“They fail to do their work of teaching people about love and waste time relating me with politics.”
Asked whether he is a politician, “I am not a politician, I am not,” he said, adding that when he reconciles people the government does not pay him for that.
“I do it as a priest to teach people about love and forgiveness. I can’t play politics and serve God as well,” He said, adding that he hates politics.
In defense Fr. Ubald believes his fellow priests are the ones branding him a politician. “It is tiresome, I work day and night and many are jealous out there.”
He explained that when you are an evangelist you have to be trustworthy, and many people don’t like to have all the truth said and it becomes a challenge.
Fr. Ubald has been having hard times to carry his evangelization while serving as a parish priest in Cyangugu Diocese.
“My evangelization would collide with church responsibilities as a parish priest. My bishop examined this and resigned me from that position.”
He said that he wasn’t a parish priest anymore, “all I do is to organize myself and inform my Bishop about my schedule and that’s all. You don’t have to sit; you have to move to places teaching people about the word of God.”
But again, the church is not happy as Fr.Ubald continues to attract bigger crowds seeking his healing prayers.
Recently, Fr. Ubald was banned from Kabgayi Diocese by Bishop Mbonyintege Smaragde due to unknown reasons.
Nevertheless, the controversial priest cleared the air saying, there is no reason why he would separate himself from the Catholic Church.
“I was called by God here to serve; there is no one who can stop me from that.”
Social and Personal Life
Born and raised in a strict Christian family in Nyamasheke district, Fr. Ubald recalls his siblings were taught to sing and pray by their mother.
When he was still a little boy, Fr.Ubald recalls promising his uncle that he wouldn’t wet his bed but that night, “I had a dream that I was herding goats and went to urinate besides the tree but when I woke up I realized had urinated on the bed,” He remembers with a laughter.
“I felt so ashamed but whenever I see a child who urinates in bed, I easily understand them,” He said.
At age of 5, he went with his mother to hide in the bush escaping from people that wanted to kill them. Two years later in 1963, his father was killed. His mother told him that his dad was killed because he was of Tutsi ethnic group.
All the things that had happened to him as a victim of the ethnic hatred in Rwanda made him decide to become a priest and teach about love.
In 1994, Fr. Ubald witnessed the Tutsi Genocide and but managed to escape to neighbouring Burundi.
While in exile, he was full of sorrow and cried all day and night whenever he thought about killings back home in Rwanda. He says he had tried to teach people about love but instead ended up killing each other.
The world of today is developing where everything seems to be taken normal but some things need a second thought.
According to Fr. Ubald, “I think people advocating for gay rights need special prayers. I consider homosexuality as total rubbish.”
In his argument, God created a man for a woman not a man for a man. People shouldn’t defend homosexuality by claiming that it’s natural.