Carmelite commitment for the batwa people in Burundi

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Carmelite commitment for the batwa people in Burundi
Published by Mathias Jaworski, ocd in The Reg. Vicariate · 29 November 2020
Tags: batwacarmelitesinBurundiprojects
Carmelite commitment in favour of the batwa people in Burundi [1]
In Burundi the batwa people is recognized like third ethnic group next to the hutu and tutsi. For a long time, they are estimated to 1% of the population. They live among them in promiscuity, practice endogamy, and live aside from the others in an extreme poverty. In the popular mentality a lot of prejudices circulate about them. They are considered lazy and thieving, ready to be enrolled by the members of the other ethnic groups in murders of settling of accounts. They are marginalized. Usually, no one deigns to share food or drinking with them. They are discriminated in all domains: education, employment, health care, representation and involvement in Public life. They live in conditions that insult the conscience of the human dignity in terms of food, habitat, hygiene, clothing and education. Even worse, they have assumed this social inferiority during a long time.
In spite of instigation measures as the exemption from scholar fees or distribution of the school material, they are very few of them who persevere in schooling. There are massive abandonments of those who had been registered to the school. Many of them prefer to return at home to their traditional lifestyle. The two professions (pottery and forge) recalled their habitat during about four centuries, before the massive destruction of the forests. Originally, they were forest dwellers and their style of life remains identified by this environment. Their favourite professions were until a few years ago: the traditional hunting with poison tipped arrows, gathering of the wild fruits. With the exit from the forest, as there is no policy of distribution of land to them, they cannot practice agriculture, they do mainly traditional clay pottery.
Since the establishment of August 9 as international day of the autochthonous peoples, even in Burundi, they are small initiatives from the Government towards them.  But it still lacking global policy in order to solve their problems.
In 2017, a member of our scapular fraternity, Hermenegilde Nijimbere, came to the convent of Bujumbura and talked about the batwa who remained without aid after the departure of a White Father from Uganda (Élias Mwehembezi) who used to take care of them in collaboration with Hermes.
In the beginning of 2019, after the peregrination of the relics of Saint Theresa of Infant Jesus in Burundi-Rwanda, our Polish missionary, father Mathias, went to see the reality on the ground if he could help in something in education or agriculture issues.
        When he arrived there, he was shocked by the conditions in which they live. In face of such a situation, our community of Bujumbura took a decision to be engaged in searching for some benefactors to build the houses for them, seeing that it is the most urgent need. By God’s Providence, few weeks later, polish priest working in Germany, Father Norbert MAIER arrived to Burundi, just to visit his friends and he proposed himself an important help in the project of housing issue. Having a long experience in such similar projects in South America, he offered an important insight in the matter and encouraged the community to do it. It was a first and fundamental step for the starting project of building the houses. A dream, became reality.

Be encouraged, community of Bujumbura created a team to analyse the most important issues to be resolved. Thanks to the involvement of the Polish Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, community organised the first of numerous workshops for the all pygmies’ leaders of the 10 villages that community decided to help. At the end, the main issues were identified, namely, housing, education, health insurance, and food security. These four lines of action became a map for the future involvement.
Few month later, another polish priest from Germany, Andreas Krefft, proposed to send to our Carmelite missions in Burundi and Rwanda, some young volunteers from the Prayer Group, called Orły, (Eagles) organised for the polish youth immigrants in Germany. Two of them were engaged in BATWA project in Burundi, three others, in our social project ITARA in Rwanda which is more focused on the mental sick people. They came on July 2019. And, thanks to this apostolate, project ABATWA found a support from German benefactors under coordination of Father Andreas Krefft.
Group of the friends of Carmelite mission from Germany (Abana Baseka) came with Father Andreas in February 2020 to open the primary school new building in our parish Gahunga in Rwanda, and by occasion, they had an opportunity to see the first 14 houses being built in Musenyi village. They could have seen also the first trees planted in the Batwa villages, as a part of food security program.

All of them are direct eyewitness of the insupportable conditions of live in which our batwa struggle day by day to survive.
At the same time, passed also bishop Jerzy Mazur with the head team from The Mission Office of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, and they proposed to assist the project of building the new houses for 2020 and 2021. The Office of Mission of Cracow OCD Province included also the apostolate towards the batwa ethnic group in his agenda of fund raising.

When the coronavirus crisis appeared, Stockholm Catholic Diocese sustained the initiative of sensitization and prevention of Covid19 disease. The animators of the Batwa project were assisted in that distribution of preventive materials by the young volunteers of the leader group formed by our community in Gitega. 10 villages that benefitted from the generosity of the diocese of Stockholm remained thankful for the mobilization of which they felt proud and favoured.

However, the Covid19 crises did not stop any plans for the difficult year of 2020. All planned activities were done, namely: 4 workshops for the women leaders in the villages (165 women); construction of 54 new houses; visiting 37 schools in favour of helping 729 batwa pupils in school materials; 443 Batwa families received health insurance.

Carmelite commitment in favour of the batwa people in Burundi
Now, at the end of the activities planned for 2020, the Batwa Project team is regarding forward, according to our strategic plan on four aspects – housing, education, health insurance and food security.
First village Musenyi, 68 houses, is already build, but many other villages wait to be built. The next village Cani that we want to build contains around 150 families living in huts and cabins. It’s more than double we have done last two years. As well, other villages are still waiting for their tourn.
For education program, team decided to pass every month through the villages and the schools to prevent the problem of the absent batwa children in school and to avoid the problem of leaving education before ending primary school.
for health issues, next year, the project assures the insurance cards for all families and proposes a help from the animators to direct the ill Batwa to the Health Centers in their zones of living. They wish, according to the needs and evolution of Covid 19 issue, to continue the prevention program.
Regarding food security program, on November just started first project to loan the lands for agriculture in favour of Batwa to promote their own responsibility for food security in their families, and to promote agriculture mentality among them. The program is sustained by Stockholm Catholic Diocese. Another activity is the Goat Solidarity Chain program to educate the families in breeding and plantation of avocado threes in some villages of Musenyi.
The commitment of the Carmelites is becoming more and more huge, because it is necessary to promote the people from this ethnic group in their environment in order to become themselves active participants for their integral development process.

We pray for them by intercession of Saint Therese of Infant Jesus, they pray for the benefactors. So, the spiritual communion is tied. As the Carmelites involved directly in this program, we are thankful for any spiritual and finance support. And we ask for your constant prayer may we respond in evangelical way to the real needs of the children of God.

God Bless You
Regional Vicaire: Father Zachary Igirukwayo.
Community of Bujumbura in charge of the project: Galican Nduwimana, Mathias Jaworski and Dieudonne Ruhanyura.
Directory team of the project: Father Mathias, Hermes Nijimbere and Belancille Kanyamuneza.

Photos’ map:

1-4: Musenyi village before our intervention
5: Directory team with two Carmelite brothers, all animators of the workshops, with Logo of Minister of the Foreign Affairs for the development project
6 - 9: Two volunteers (Camilla and Joanna) and German benefactors distributing insurancs cards with Father Andreas showing the traditional house in Mussenyi
10: Head team of Episcopal Conference of Poland with the community of Bujumbura.
11-12: Execution of the construction of the houses in Musenyi , and one family waiting for their house
13 – 14: Prevention of the Covid 19. Animator Bella and the young volunteers
15: Distribution of the school materials in one the 37 schools
16-17: New houses in Musenyi
18 – Praful gratitude
19 – Families of Musenyi with the local administrator on the day of the opening the new houses, all are dedicated to Saint Therese of Infant Jesus

 [1] Cf.  which belongs to Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization; “The situation of the batwa indigenous Peoples in Burundi “ in; “An indigenous comunity in Burundi battles for equal treatment” in (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights); “World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous People – Burundi: Twa” in; “Life Outside the Forest: The Journey of the Batwa of Burundi” in

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