Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Burudian Independence Day: Freedom to Rebuild

By Aly Lewis

My car has been out of commission for the last week. After being rather testy for a week or two, starting on the fifth try or not starting at strategically planned times when no one else was around to give me a ride home, it finally just quit starting altogether. However, not before I had witnessed enough Romeo and Juliet style self-revival to be convinced that it wasn’t really dead, it was just napping or sleeping off an apothecary-approved potion. Turns out (also in Romeo and Juliet fashion) it was dead after all. 

I would like to say that my week of carlessness sent me sputtering into desperation.  I would like to say that it impinged on my freedom in such a way that I now feel completely confident in relating to and writing about the lack of freedom many people around the world feel.  Instead I had a great old time hitching rides with friends and coworkers and worst-case scenario I had to spend the day at the beach with some of my best friends because I couldn’t get a ride home. 

Tough life. 

Freedom has a little different ring (or sting) for the people of Burundi.  A small country in Eastern Africa, Burundi borders Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Burundi is home to the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, who have occupied the land since the country’s formation over five centuries ago. Belgian occupation greatly increased ethnic conflict, and over 40 years of brutal civil war has left the country aching and the land depleted. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and even more have fled to neighboring Rwanda to find refuge.

When peace was finally achieved in 2006, large numbers of refugees started returning to their homeland and the need for economic development, food security, and ethnic reconciliation continues to be immense.  Over 70% of Burundi’s soil is severely degraded, and displaced farmers struggle to eke out a meager living from the harsh land.  Land that was once fertile and rich in agricultural resources has been vandalized by widespread destruction as consequences of war.   Roughly the same size and population of Haiti, Burundi shares a history of violence and extreme poverty, intensified by environmental degradation.  As refugees flood back into the country and people begin to rebuild, Burundi is faced with the challenge of transitioning from a nation on the brink of extinction to a nation of hope.  Without sustainable long-term solutions and short-term options, Burundians have little hope for the future.

With a focus on restored relationships—between farmers and the land they depend on and amongst historically antagonistic ethnic groups—Plant With Purpose has begun an innovative new program in Burundi.  In response to the great needs of the people of Burundi, PWP’s integrated program of community development, sustainable agriculture, microcredit, and discipleship has expanded to include training in peace and reconciliation.  Plant With Purpose has embarked on a two year Pilot Project to improve the sustainable agriculture system, reforest farmer and community land, and promote spiritual growth in this desperate country.  It is Plant With Purpose’s hope to revitalize the rural economy from the ground up, healing the land and its people, and bringing a much-needed message of hope to the people of Burundi. 

Today marks Burundi’s Independence from Belgium. Let us also celebrate the efforts of the Burundian farmers who are working together to restore their land, provide for their families, and rebuild their lives.  Let us celebrate and join with them in their quest for freedom—political freedom and refuge, but also the freedom to choose a better life for their children, the freedom to choose what they plant and how they treat the land, the freedom to choose reconciliation and forgiveness in the face of horrific violence and genocide.  

You can be a part of the transformation that is taking place in the hearts and lives of the people of Burundi.

To find out more about our program in Burundi, click here.

To donate to our transformational work in Burundi, click here.  

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Aly! I learned something new about Burundi today!


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