Burundi continues to be a country full of contrasts and contradictions. Many of our friends and students are fearful of the future and have either left the country or are waiting at home with their families. In the capital city Bujumbura, the threat of violence or harassment by protestors or police prevents citizens from confidently returning to their usual routines.
In certain neighborhoods, residents are prevented from going to work in the morning to prevent the city from moving on from the recent protests. Barricades and the occasional gunshots have prompted many Westerners and Burundians to leave.
However, in the rural areas of the country including our Kibuye home, the subsistence life continues unchanged. As I go for a run early in the morning, I see the women heading to the fields with babies tied to their backs. Children continue to attend school. Men still push their all-purpose bicycles loaded with bricks or charcoal or produce. The political tensions don’t even seem to be on the radar in this place.
Government supporters celebrate the gains made in 10 years of leadership while opposition leaders voice their concerns about some of the means used to achieve those improvements. The weakened economy especially threatens the delicate balance which allows the average poor Burundian to find enough food for each day. The Burundian franc is devalued and unstable to the point that neighboring countries are not accepting it for international commerce. International donors are either withholding their aid or attaching more and more requirements to its use by the Burundian government. Individually, these barriers can be overcome but together, they are a real challenge. In the face of these realities, farmers are still growing their casava and beans, tending their goats and chickens, and praying that the harvest will meet their needs.
These contrasts fill the news and social media sites each day. Our perspective is colored by our place. While we are thankful for the calm in Kibuye, we all feel the strain as this situation has far-reaching effects. Parents and children are at odds. Supply chains for hospital materials are disrupted. Patients struggle to pay for care. Hope Africa University’s main campus is closed and many students are not sure how they will be able to pay for their next semester. And yet…
During these days, we are finding opportunities to lean into the Peace that is not understandable. Our prayers are focused as are our conversations with fearful students and friends. Thank you for joining us in prayer. Together we can make a difference for Burundians. Friends of Hope Africa University has initiated an effort to prepare for the significant financial needs that HAU and its students will have in the coming weeks. Thank you for considering how you might participate with us.
Below is a portion of a letter from Bishop Gerald Bates including the details of the appeal for help in these days…
The country of Burundi has been going through a storm surrounding the elections.
There have been protests, some deaths, and scores of thousands of refugees into neighboring countries. Universities in the capital city are closed. HAU is operating with a small administrative staff and very little academic activity. Some of the international students have not been able to go to their home countries so they are cared for in the dormitory. Our medical extensions, the Van Norman Clinic and Kibuye Hope Hospital, have continued to provide services with the exception of the absence of students who have gone to their homes.
Following the advice of the summit of East African Leaders to the leaders of Burundi elections have been postponed for nearly two months. This means the period of political activity and tension is extended. The memories of the ethnic conflicts of over a decade ago are vivid and so there is much fear. Hope Africa University leaders are monitoring the situation as to when the school can resume normal functions.
This crisis will end. When it does the role of Hope Africa University will be even more vital in rebuilding peace and offering hope. Foreign aid has been affected by the tensions thus depressing the national economy. We are anticipating intensified poverty affecting the families who send students to the university. There will also be needs to assist the university in the period where its income is reduced to near zero. Therefore we are asking for gifts in two categories:
1) Scholarships for what we anticipate to be literally thousands of needy students, and
2) General support for the school—administration, utilities, transport.
I heard a story recently that seemed to fit:
A young boy fell in the river. His father found a piece of old rope which he threw to his son in the water. Then he noticed that the rope was frayed and about to break above where his son was holding on. He shouted to his son,
“REACH BEYOND THE BREAK AND HOLD ON!”
That is what we are doing for Hope Africa University. We must, in faith, reach beyond the troubles and hold on. When order returns we want to be there, holding on and ready to move forward. I am asking you to join us now–in the mobilizing of finances in readiness–and then in the victory of this great kingdom institution called Hope Africa University as it resumes its stride.
Thank you for considering these requests. And please do join us in praying for Hope Africa University and its leaders, and for the nation of Burundi at this critical time.
In His glad service,
You can help us REACH BEYOND THE BREAK and be ready to help Hope Africa University by sending your support to Friends of Hope Africa University, PO Box 580, Spring Arbor, MI 49283
*protest photos are taken from the internet and used without permission.