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Burundi gets a raw deal, says Bishop

23 August 2013

SHUTTERSTOCK

On the shore: people collect water from Lake Tanganyika, in Rumonge, Burundi

On the shore: people collect water from Lake Tanganyika, in Rumonge, Burundi

BURUNDI is getting a "raw deal" from Britain and the rest of the world, the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, has warned.

Bishop Butler returned from a visit to Burundi and Rwanda last weekend, and, writing on his blog, contrasted the two countries. In Rwanda, where "the roads are better and safer; the people look better dressed and kept; the buildings appear more solid and cared for; the streets are much cleaner," 20 years have passed since the last significant conflict, compared with five years in Burundi.

Rwanda, however, has received about three times more aid: "One has emerged, increasingly gaining international respect; the other is still not regarded as worthy of real interest or concern."

In Burundi, he observed a "harrowing" overcrowded hospital ward and a school where four teenagers share each bunk bed. He also, however, visited an "inspiring" water project, and noted a revolution in women's lives brought about by the Mothers' Union, the "remarkable success story" of integrating returning refugees, and the clearing of all landmines.

At a meeting with the Bishop, the Foreign Affairs minister had been keen to discuss the withdrawal of the office of the UK Department for International Development. Bilateral aid was axed in 2011, a move that was criticised at the time by the Anglican Communion's Alliance for Development, Relief and Advocacy (News, 4 November 2011).

Bishop Butler preached in Bujumbura Cathedral, in a diocese that had been through a "terribly difficult period". In April, the Bishop of Bujumbura, the Rt Revd Pie Ntukamazina, was permanently removed from his post by the House of Bishops, which reported that he had organised a "pseudo synod" that announced the diocese's separation from the province. Bishop Butler concluded that the community was "determined to get on with its task under new leadership".

In Rwanda, he cried "tears of joy" on seeing a school and centre for Compassion ministry in Muhanga, where "things have progressed so much".

He also noted the "complexity" of the Church's recent history. It seemed "simply wrong" that three bishops, held to be complicit in the genocide, were buried at the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Kabgyi, but that no memorial to the 64,000 victims had been built. He also noted that the previous Anglican Bishop of Shyogwe was accused of being a perpetrator, and had been tried at the International Court in Arusha. Nevertheless, the Church had been a "key player" in the rebuilding of the country.

Bishop Butler visited with people from his diocese, three MPs, and a representative of Christian Aid. He observed a "fresh awareness that dependence on 'outside' can become dangerous", suggesting that it could be diffcult for external agencies to let go: "Mutually we have to help each other with this process."

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