Wednesday 22 April 2015

Bujumbura, Burundi - Sant’Egidio and the spirit of Assisi in the heart of Africa

An interreligious prayer with high symbolic value took place a few days ago in the heart of Africa, in Burundi, a heart still marked by the violent ethnic clashes of the past years and whose internal peace is at risk due to the difficult upcoming elections. We cannot forget that the ethnic composition of this small central African country is very similar to that of its neighbor, Rwanda, whose 1994 genocide anniversary was commemorated just a few days ago. 

This explains the invitation that the Community of Sant’Egidio of Burundi and the archdiocese of Bujumbura, the capital, have addressed to representatives of different religions and faiths, to all men and women of goodwill, to spend a day together inspired by the Spirit of Assisi, to pray for peace.
And truly the spirit of the city of Saint Francis, the spirit of the interreligious dialogue and the search for peace filled the large expanse which was crowded with hundreds of Burundians including many political leaders and representatives from civil society.
Among the day’s most touching moments were the testimony of Judith, a 73 years old
woman who witnessed too many times brothers killing brothers in this small country on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, and that of Bruce, an 11 year old boy from the School of Peace of Sant’Egidio who invited everyone to live and grow in the school of peace. 
A very special guest was Mons. Matteo Zuppi, auxiliary bishop of Rome. He was one of the mediators during the peace negotiations for Burundi which took place during the past years in Rome and Arusha (Tanzania). He urged the leaders and the people of Burundi to continue to “show the courage of peace. Burundi must continue to be an example for all that peace is possible, and that only the instrument of dialogue can make it grow”.

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