Focolare Movement

My name was on the blacklist

 No Burundi national will ever forget the year 1993. The assassination of the newly-elected President had unleashed tribal hatred, anger, and thirst for revenge, much greater than that which already gnawed the hearts of the youth. Like everybody else – men, women and children – I too had to learn how to handle a gun. And yet a question kept surfacing in my mind: how can I change this situation? One day, a conflict occurred right in my village between the rebels and the government forces. Fifty people were killed. These were my friends, people I used to see everyday on the street. I could not swallow this, so I decided to take up arms and defend my people. One Sunday, I took refuge in a church during a heavy rainfall. I found myself in a hall where a “Word of Life” meeting was going on. Since I was invited to stay, while waiting I started observing the people around me. They were sharing stories of their life interwoven with the Gospel. They talked of unity and brotherhood, but more than anything else, I saw it being lived among them. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to give it a try, to take up the challenge of love. I chose the university as my training ground. In those rooms which I entered everyday, there was an even more acute feeling of division because of the presence of youth from different tribes. Many of them have lost relatives in war, and they still had hatred and revenge in their hearts. It was certainly not easy to study in these conditions … In spite of all this, I entered class each morning greeting everybody, even if some of my classmates considered me a fool. I withstood accusations and criticisms from people of my own tribe. I knew I was walking on quicksand, but I did not change my behaviour. I wanted to prove that dialogue was more powerful than arms, that the solution to our problems was love. Jesus, too, had passed through these same things, and like him, I wanted to give my life for a more united world. Outside the university, my new friends and I certainly did not waste time. We did everything to love, to spread the idea of a culture of peace. We collected food and clothing for the poor; we organised meetings parties, and sportsfests, all to encourage dialogue and to show that it is possible for us to live as brothers and sisters. It was only after two years that one of my schoolmates found the courage to confess to me that he had put my name on the list of enemies to be eliminated. It was my way of acting that made him change his mind. He threw away the gun which he always used to carry with him because now he has decided to live a new life. Jovin from Burundi