Melchior, Bivanda

Catholic Church

Born September 15, 1942, in the Commune of Munanira, Province of Muramvya, Artémon and Françoise. Having completed his studies in philosophy and a year of theology at the Major Seminary of Bujumbura, Melchior was sent to Rome. On June 23, 1969, he graduated with a Baccalaureate in Theology with “very high distinction” from Urbaniana University; and two years later, he received his pastoral license. Ordained a priest on August 22, 1971, he was appointed pastor of the Parish of Musigati. He was killed in Bubanza with Joseph Nikoyagize and Donatien Nzeyimana.

Here is the story of his death. On May 15, 1972, after Mass, the vicar Joseph Nikoyagize told the nuns that he had received a message from the military commander asking him to go to Bubanza to settle some business there. The sisters tried to persuade him not to go; they had a feeling that something was going to go wrong.

A little later, a car stopped in front of the nuns’ convent. The passengers (perhaps soldiers in civilian clothes) made their way to the teachers’ house; they told the teachers that they had to pick up their pass in Bubanza (the next day the vacation started). The teachers left, with the exception of one who declared himself to be ill and who, when the others had left, fled.

In the afternoon, soldiers returned with Father Joseph Nikoyangizo’s car to look for the other parish priests, Donatien and Melchior. They told them that Abbé Joseph (already dead!) was sending them to get them.

Around 7:00 p.m., soldiers arrived from Bubanza, saying that they had to search the parish house. The sister superior told them that they had to inform the bishop first, since there was no one at the parish. The next day a soldier came to ask if the parish priests had returned. “We freed them,” he said. During the day, Lieutenant-Colonel de Bubanza went to the market of Musigati, where he announced that the priests had fled to Zaire (now Congo) and that the bishop had gone to fetch them.

In reality, after having massacred the abbots with sticks and hammers, the same soldiers had driven the blue Volkswagen, belonging to the vicar of the parish, in the direction of the Zairian border, near the Ruzizi river. Then they spread the rumor that the three priests had fled across the border.

Those who knew the abbots believed the story, and the bishop sent someone to Bukavu to get information from the procurator there, S. Jean Bosco. But in Bukavu no one had seen the three abbots.

A few days later, an old woman who had gone to look for wood in the forest saw some bodies, which turned out to be those of the three victims, decomposing.

P. Neno Contran et Abbé Gilbert Kadjemenje

This article is reproduced from Cibles: 235 prêtres africains tués (copyright © 2002), with the permission of the editors and of P. Neno Contran and Abbé Gilbert Kadjemenje (Afriquespoir, B.P. 724 Limete - Kinshasa, RDC). All rights reserved. Translation by Luke B. Donner, the DACB Research Assistant and PhD student at Boston University at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission.