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The delegation at community work in Bujumbura
Photo No. : P130817-1
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Listening to stories from returnees
Photo No. : P130817-2
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EAB PRESS 130817-1
August 17, 2013

[EAB Press - Burundi] A joint delegation of Members of the UK Parliament with representatives from the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham led by the Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Paul Butler, and a representative from Christian Aid UK has just completed a visit to Rwanda and Burundi in order to look at how Church, State and NGOs work together to facilitate peace and reconciliation in two countries emerging from genocide and civil conflict.

The visiting MPs were John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, Nottinghamshire with his wife Jo White; Graham Jones, MP for Haslingden and Hyndburn, Lancashire; and Lilian Greenwood, MP for Nottingham South. From the Church the Rt Rev Paul Butler was joined by Rev Sarah Clark, Team Rector of Clifton Parish, Nottingham and Dean of Women’s Ministry in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham; Andy Clasper from Christian Aid UK; and Poppy Richards from Ordsall Nottinghamshire who acted as secretary.

The delegation spent eight days from 8th August in Burundi and was assisted by members of the Provincial staff and by Andre Nsengiyumva of Christian Aid Rwanda and Burundi.

During the visit the delegation was honoured to be received by His Excellency Peter Nkurunziza, President of Burundi; by the first Vice-President of the National Assembly and by the Foreign Minister. They also met informally with representatives of the Senate.

The group joined in the celebration of International Day of Batwa and participated in community work to construct school classrooms in a suburb of Bujumbura. They were able to talk with former refugees from Tanzania and DR Congo and to visit a village for returnees in Makamba Province established in 2011 for 200 families that exemplified the level of integration that has taken place in communities all over the country.

A coffee washing station supported by Food for the Hungry and Christian Aid and the work of Handicap International particularly in addressing the issue of mines provided an insight into how communities and individuals are being supported by NGOs working in Burundi to alleviate poverty and contribute to sustainable peace.

Dioceses of the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi welcomed the delegation and showed them various projects that enabled them to see how the Church has been and is being pro-active in the work of community transformation and mobilization by initiating programmes in areas of the environment, health, education, and the Mothers’ Union literacy and financial education programme all of which contribute to the process of peace and reconciliation.

They heard people’s stories as to how they were being empowered and given dignity, how they were better able to support their families, solve problems, participate in decision-making, challenge violence, resolve conflict, develop their communities and care for their environment. Issues of poverty and poverty alleviation, land and land registration, and resources and facilities in schools and clinics were commonly raised.

Those participating in the visit made a number of observations that included the enormous challenge faced by Burundi as it seeks to address such issues as poverty, good governance, and education. A clear vision for the future is essential along with innovative, high quality programmes and initiatives that have transparency and accountability built into them. Ecumenical relationships and other partnerships, both faith-based and secular could be drawn upon to provide a breadth of perspective. The specific needs of the youth require analysis. Equitable access to resources needs to be addressed. The values underlying the work of the Church as it seeks to build community could form a blue-print for others.

Members of the delegation were asked to advocate for Burundi through UK Government channels especially regarding admission to the Commonwealth. It was emphasized that support from the International Community is needed along with foreign investment and bi-lateral funding.

The Rt. Rev. Paul Butler urged the Church to grasp the opportunity given by the President of Burundi to nominate people for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ensure that all ethnic groups are represented on it. At all levels and in all contexts “the Church must maintain a vision where justice is done, the poor are raised up and corruption is challenged,” he said while preaching in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Bujumbura.

In thanking the delegation and Christian Aid for the visit the Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi said, “The work of transforming society is something that we have to do together. We are learning about participation and democracy. The Church has a ministry of reconciliation; a mission that is holistic and rooted in social transformation.”

The visit concluded with a commitment from all the participants to continue to dialogue on the issues raised, to advocate for an on-going peace and reconciliation process through appropriate channels and to strengthen partnerships.