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Freedom in forgiveness: lessons from Burundi

Desire Majambere, Tearfund’s Country Director for Burundi, shares his hope for the future of the country.

Desire Majambere Tearfund Country Director for Burundi | 24 Sep 2021

Credit: Tom Price/Tearfund

Credit: Tom Price/Tearfund

I grew up in Burundi, where there are many challenges related to security. Since Burundi gained its independence in 1962, political instability, including assassinations and coups, has led to repeated violence between the Tutsi and Hutu populations, with devastating consequences. But, because of my faith in God, the work of the local church, and the resilience of Burundians, I still have hope that things will change.

Burundi is a beautiful country with many hills, lakes and rivers. In Burundi, there are many things that we love and also we have a friendly people.

But the country’s history of violence is challenging for us.

In 2019, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Burundi began exhuming mass graves dating as far back as the 1970s. With no proper counselling or psychological care, this has meant renewed trauma for people and the reopening of old wounds and divisions.

There is always hope

Our work in southwest Burundi, in Matana, has given us incredible hope and encouragement. It reminds us of God’s word – that he can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Though we face huge challenges, we know the grace and love of Jesus has no less power here to heal and save.

At the heart of all this is the love and hard work of the church, local Christian organisations and individual champions. They have brought the local knowledge and relationships needed for the depth and longevity of this work. It is essential for us to work with them and help train them in order to bring the unity and resilience that is so needed.

With God, there is always hope – even in the midst of recurring crises, we know God himself can bring us healing and a future peace.

The good news

The good news is that the church has power and potential in this country. People listen to church leaders, and this is our strength.

‘Change is possible,’ Bishop Seth Ndayirukiye from the Matana Anglican church of Burundi shares with me. ‘Where we have started, you can see we have made an impact, but there are other places we need to go and reach, where people are still suffering.

‘I wish to see a transformed community, without fighting, without hatred, without poverty, without malnutrition.’

‘Forgiveness is a gate to peace’

The stories of hope out of suffering and strength and healing from brokenness, make us eager to extend this work as much as we can alongside our brothers and sisters in Burundi.

Marie, from Matana, was jailed without trial or committing any crime. Three weeks after she was released, Tearfund’s local church partner reached out to help. Her story reminds me of the power of forgiveness.

‘I learnt to forgive,’ says Marie. ‘Even when I meet my jailer, I greet him first. This is thanks to the training I received, which has enabled me to do so.

‘Forgiveness is a gate to peace... From the teachings, I feel inspired to teach others about forgiveness. Even Jesus, when he was on the cross, said “Forgive them because they don’t know what they do.” We can’t do exactly what Jesus did, but we are called to do what we can.

The strength of the Spirit

‘Now, we live peacefully, thanks to these teachings. Now, we forgive each other and collect water from the same fountain.

‘If you don’t pray, where can you get a forgiving heart from? You go to church, you pray for yourself and you ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you. If I’m only trained without the Holy Spirit, I can’t be enabled to forgive.

‘In the future, I hope people can forgive the way we did. If we stick to the past, Burundi will be headed to nowhere.’

God is calling us to press on in Burundi. Please join us in prayer.

Pray with us

Dear God,

Thank you for your faithfulness in Burundi. It is encouraging to see your power and love at work. We ask that you continue to strengthen the local church in Burundi – to give them the resources and wisdom to press forward with your plans for the country.

Lord, we ask for a future filled with peace for Burundi. Where there is division and hurt, we pray for a spirit of forgiveness to take hold.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Desire Majambere

Tearfund Country Director for Burundi

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