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Your location>Home>Publications>PeaceWays>Fall 2008

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Editorial Comment

“ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Burundi: Recently I was on a webpage that had a map of the world. To get information about a country you were supposed to click on the country. Burundi was so small (about the size of Maryland) that it didn’t even appear on the map! As one of the poorest countries (partly due to the twelve year civil war) in Africa it is not considered of any strategic interest. AGLI fundraiser, Tommy Zarembka, has found that Burundi is frequently excluded from lists of countries eligible for grants. Unlike Rwanda it has no extinct volcanoes with mountain gorillas on its summits. It does have a place called “the source of the Nile” but Tanzania, Rwanda, and Congo also have such “sources.”

Yet 8 to 9 million people live in Burundi. Should we then follow this conventional neglect and consider Burundi outside our area of interest and concern? This edition of PeaceWays--AGLI should convince you that important things are occurring in this out-of-the way place. For example, here is a quote from Marius Nzeyimana, interviewed after he visited Gitega prison to meet with those who killed his family members:

When someone has done something wrong to you, especially these killings, he or she will come to avoid you, whatever he or she did, but it’s up to us to start because we are the victims, to start letting them approach us, because we have loved each other, and we need them to see the love we are carrying for them and draw them to us. So that’s what we did.

AGLI has been active in Burundi since we held our first workcamp there in the summer of 1999, rebuilding the guest house at Kamenge Friends Church. Over the years, our involvement has increased. In 2002, in partnership with Burundi Yearly Meeting of Friends, AGLI began supporting the Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC--pronounced “he-rock”) program that brings Tutsi and Hutu together to recover from the wounds of that civil war. In the same year, we also began supporting the Friends Women’s Association (FWA) to build an HIV/AIDS clinic in Kamenge, a slum in Bujumbura that was mostly destroyed during the fighting. Friends from the northwestern United States have also been supporting the Mutaho Widows’ Group.

In the past people have complained that our testimonies come from the end of our workshops and thus the positive reports are due to the “high” of being in the workshops. The articles in this issue dwell on long-range results. While many non-governmental and religious organizations conduct projects of a few years duration, AGLI’s philosophy is to build a permanent, on-going relationship with people and adjust our involvement according to the needs expressed by our partners in the Great Lakes region.
The HROC program began in Mutaho in 2002 and continues to this day, six years later. To provide an understanding of the conditions in Mutaho we include An Introduction to Mutaho and HROC Testimonies from Mutaho from two members of that community. One of the most significant activities of the HROC program took place in August 2005 when a mostly Tutsi group from the Mutaho IDP camp (internally displaced persons) visited the Hutu prisoners who were accused of organizing the violence in Mutaho and being responsible for the deaths of many of their family members. In Aftermath of the Visit to the Gitega Prison, Adrien Niyongabo reports on the interviews he had with two of the participants on this trip and two of the prisoners who were visited. We also include his story, Goodness Is Not a Debt, and a report on the Mutaho Widows’ Group, Rema (Have Courage).

We also include Heading for the Kamenge Clinic by Alexia Nibona and a workcamp report, A Day in the Life of a Workcamper, by Sara Gmitter. Andrew Peterson, AGLI’s newest team member with the HROC and FWA programs, will get you thinking with his probing article, Not Development, Transformation.
If you read through this issue of PeaceWays--AGLI, I think that you will not consider Burundi and the work we all are doing there as “an insignificant, tangential part of world history,” but perhaps as a place on the cutting edge, leading the way towards a greater understanding of how to foster healing from wounds of violence.

Please enjoy!
David Zarembka