Building peace in Burundi


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“The violence has also touched my life. In such a difficult context, the desire to rebuild my country has turned into a real passion that grows more and more each day. It was that desire which led me to attend Sophia University Institute (IUS) in Italy. I had heard of the school when I was back in my own country. The manner in which they approach diversity at Sophia helps me to deal with the diversity of Burundi, and here I realised that I shouldn’t wait until I finish my studies to contribute something.”

That was how the young man began his work for peace. “I am able to meet a lot of my fellow countrymen and women, and every time I try to express my belief in the spirit of brotherhood, using the skills I acquired from my studies which allow me to dialogue value the positive I find in other people.

This attitude of mine drew the attention of several people with differing opinions on the situation in Burundi. They included members of the opposition, members of the party that’s in power and also members of civil society. When it’s my turn to say something, I never talk about my political affiliation but express what I feel in my heart, referring to what the Pope has also said: ‘volence is never a pathway of peace.’ Once, for example, I highlighted the fact that there were representatives from the government amongst us and that the plan that time was to end our discussion drinking a beer together as a sign of reconciliation, which is  the custom in our culture. I added that here, far from the conflict, we sit side by side and even though we are having a heated argument, we greet one another as friends both when we arrive and when we say goodbye. But in Bujumbura they are killing one anothe . . . So, I  suggested: Why not share our testimony with everyone? Why not tell our countrymen back home that dialogue and argument are possible without killing anyone? We’ve shown that dialogue is possible, I added.”

“After that comment I thought that I hadn’t been understood and that they would have thought I was a dreamer living in nowhere land.” But instead to his great surpprise, they had taken him very seriously. “We met again with twenty experts on the situation in Burundi. There were representatives from the different interest groups, and the goal was to discuss possible models for an inclusive dialogue amongst government, opposition, civil society, armed groups, and so on, in view of bringing peace to the country. It turned out to be an important opportunity for listening, useful for expressing together with serenity several proposals that could be made to the government.”

“I could see that the experience at Sophia produces fruits that go beyond us,” he concluded. I’m convinced more than ever that we can bring the light of the Gospel to the many difficult situations that our countries are going through. I hope to continue making my small contribution to building peace, not only in Burundi, but in the whole world.”.

 

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