Peace champions trained by Christian international development organisation Tearfund are working in some of Burundi’s poorest communities to help people overcome the emotional and practical effects of decades of conflict.
‘All Burundians have wounds in their hearts’ says Désiré Majambere, Tearfund’s Country Director for the small landlocked African state, explaining the impact of violence and unrest on individuals such as mother-of-five Jacqueline.
When Jacqueline returned to Burundi after temporarily fleeing to safety in Rwanda, she found her land had been given away and her husband had deserted her. ‘My children get very hungry,’ she says, explaining the impact of her losses, while also dealing with memories of the violence which killed her father and caused her to be stabbed.
Tearfund’s Christian partner, Help Channel Burundi [HCB] is working through local churches to help returning refugees like Jacqueline settle back peacefully into their lives. As well as setting up cooperatives so members can share the practicalities of making a living, HCB have trained community and church leaders, including 38-year-old Evariste, in peacebuilding.
As one of the 228 peace champions trained so far, Evariste uses one-to-one counselling and group sessions to help Jacqueline and her children process their trauma, heal the wounds in their hearts and claim a brighter future.
Evariste explains the privilege of being a local ‘prince of peace’: ‘When residents have trusted you, saying we have chosen you to solve these problems for us, it’s the same as if God has trusted you.’ And he shares his most important lesson, which is ‘loving each other.’
People like Evariste are helping fulfil Désiré Majambere’s deepest hopes for his country: ‘I wish to see a reconciled Burundi, with people working together and addressing the issues together without any suspicion. I wish for them to be resilient, to live without poverty and to look forward hopefully to a better future.That’s what I wish for Burundi.’
Tearfund’s Head of Church and Supporter Relations, Ruth Tormey, says:
As we draw near to Christmas and remember the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, our hearts naturally turn towards those whose lives are more challenging than our own. Most people in the UK are getting to grips with reduced finances at the moment, but we give thanks for our generous and faithful supporters who continue to give what they can out of love for their neighbours around the world, and love for the peace which Jesus brought us.
Thanks to a group of generous supporters, every pound given to Tearfund’s Christmas Appeal for its work around the world, including in Burundi, will be doubled up to £600,000, until 31 January 2023. For more information please visit www.tearfund.org/ChristmasBurundi
Written by: Louise Thomas