With peace remaining “fragile” in Burundi and memories of past genocides still vivid, more needs to be done to guarantee human rights, according to a leading Catholic charity.
There have been three genocides and other violent conflicts between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups in the east-central African country since it became independent in 1962.
Maxime François-Marsal, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need’s (ACN) head of projects for francophone countries in Central Africa, discussed the attempts at lasting peace after his trip to the country.
Mr François-Marsal said that Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye acknowledged the “major role” the Vatican had played “in the peace process and reconciliation of the Burundian people, and these efforts have borne the fruits of a fragile peace”.
He highlighted that there remains “a growing threat of violence for political reasons within the country”.
He stated: “Internal tensions and external circumstances risk affecting all human rights.
“Particular attention must therefore be paid to the education and formation process of those who will be the actors of the life of the Church and of development in the country.”
He added: “There is a climate of distrust everywhere, even among friends and families.
“I was told that people never invite their friends to their homes, because they fear that they could then know their house and hunt them down whenever the next civil war starts.
“For this reason, ACN supports projects to promote and safeguard Catholic families.”
Mr François-Marsal stressed that ACN’s work in Burundi is “directed at spreading the Good News within people’s hearts, so that they can resist the temptation of violence”.
He added that, having been evangelised only 125 years ago, Burundian society “has not yet deeply embraced the Christian faith and still relies on customs and traditions derived from indigenous religions”.
Over the past 10 years, ACN has contributed to more than 200 projects in the country, with a focus on the formation of priests and religious sisters, as well as supporting catechesis and various pastoral activities.
Mr François-Marsal said that ACN remains committed to supporting the Church and helping to maintain peace in Burundi.
With thanks to Mykolas Sotnicenka