Street Salvation

How does a nation like Burundi rebuild itself after a bitter and bloody civil war which left 300,000 people dead? According to Dieudonné Nahimana, the key to a peaceful future lies with the nation’s thousands of street children – it's a life he lived for many years himself.

On October 21st 1993, Burundi’s president was assassinated and civil war broke out between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Within a single day, 19-year-old Dieudonné Nahimana had lost his entire family along with his home.

Dieudonné had been staying at boarding school. Now he was living on the streets of the capital Bujumbura. He had nothing to eat and nowhere to live.

‘Everybody in Burundi lives day by day,’ he explains ‘street children live second by second. You don’t know if you’ll survive tomorrow or whether you are going to eat. The fear of death is constant – every second, every day.’

in this Together

As one of the older street kids, he found himself helping to look after children as young as three who had lost their families. It was while he was homeless that he made a remarkable discovery.

‘When the children found themselves on the street, they didn’t divide up into Hutus and Tutsis, they were all together. The children would be best friends with each other and have no idea which tribe each other had come from.’

Clockwise from left: Dieudonné, a New Generation child off to school, leadership training (photos: Rebekah Morton)

‘When the children found themselves on the street, they didn’t divide up into Hutus and Tutsis, they were all together.'

Dieudonné Nahimana

This single realisation lies at the heart of New Generation Burundi, the organisation founded and led by Dieudonné. It exists to offer education, support and hope to the nation’s street children. But it has another, more ambitious aim: to heal the country of its deadly divisions. And he is convinced that these same street children will play a crucial role.

Agents of Unity

‘They are a family and they share a dream of making the country better together - that’s why I’m convinced they are the key players in the reconciliation programme.’

As well as offering shelter and education to as many of the street children as they can,
Dieudonné is on the lookout for people he believes could grow up to shape the future of the nation. These young men and women are singled out for special training, giving them the skills they need to help rebuild a peaceful and prosperous Burundi.

Leading the Way

‘My hope is that some of the young people we’ve been training in leadership will be key leaders in the country,’ he explains. When pressed on what he looks for in a potential future leader, he uses the African word 'Ubuntu' – sometimes translated as 'humanity towards others'.  Dieudonné describes it as an understanding that 'I am because you are', a sense that you are instinctively living and looking out for others around you as well as yourself – something street children are well versed in for their collective survival.

As well as working with the street children, Dieudonné has long been involved with a message of nonviolence and reconciliation as the killing continued. Now the civil war is behind them, he is hoping that this will be the generation that can break the cycle of violence for all time.

Pray for Dieudonné:

  • Pray that Dieudonné and New Generation Ministries will be able to help more and more young people off the streets and into a new life.
  • Ask God to help them identify and nurture Burundi's future leaders and peacemakers, helping the nation escape its bloody legacy.
  • Pray for the work of Inspired Individuals, as it supports many more remarkable ministries like Dieudonné's.

Dieudonné and New Generation Burundi are supported by Tearfund's Inspired Individuals programme. Inspired Individuals identifies, develops and connect new leaders who are aspiring to live like Jesus in their communities and nations. Men and women whose dreams have the potential to transform some of the most needy places and people around the world.  

Learn more about New Generation Burundi.

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