Burundian Delegation Visits U.S. For Peace Building Training

Catholic Relief Services
Monday, 17 May 2004

More than 21 Burundians from a cross section of Burundi society arrived this week in Washington, D.C. as part of a Burundi Peace Building and Reconciliation Commission, to address the role of the Burundian Catholic Church in creating a culture of peace and reconciliation throughout the East African nation. Since 1993, more than 300,000 Burundians have been killed, half a million internally displaced, and more than 600,000 forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries due to civil war in the country.

The delegation is commissioned by the Conference Episcopale Catholique du Burundi (CECAB), the Burundian Catholic Bishops' Conference, and comes at the invitation of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB). Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will help facilitate the visit and will help implement the Commission's peacebuilding efforts.

The Burundi Peace Building and Reconciliation Commission includes a former prime minister, four Burundian bishops, religious and lay community leaders, as well as representatives of women's, youth and rural organizations. While in the United States from May 15 to June 3, the Commission will visit faith-based and secular peacebuilding groups, the United Nations and U.S. Congress, American Catholic parishes and Burundians living in the United States. Training sessions over the three weeks will focus on reconciliation, trauma and healing of memories; community and parish building; and conflict, analysis and transformation.

The training program will lead to the creation of an action plan that will cultivate a larger, more effective role of the Church in fostering a culture of peace, and implemented in partnership with a multitude of religious and secular groups throughout Burundi. The plan will address the building of partnerships with ecumenical and civil societies, as well as practical techniques for peace building in the context of Burundi. The program builds upon the strengths of the Catholic Church as a moral voice and as one of the broadest, most influential and diverse communities in Burundi.

Nearly 70 percent of the population of Burundi is Catholic, including seven dioceses and 132 parishes. The Burundi Peace Building and Reconciliation Commission has the mandate to mobilize this vast network to create a culture of peace and reconciliation for all Burundians.

USCCB called for similar peace and reconciliation efforts in a November 2001 statement titled, A Call for Solidarity, in which it stated, "Each year, the dioceses of the United States are invited to devote special attention to the Church and the people of Africa. Prayers, Mass intentions, educational programs, and a variety of other means might be employed to express such solidarity."

The Catholic Church and CRS in Burundi:

Since its establishment in Burundi over a century ago, the Catholic Church has played a leading role through its pastoral work in the promotion of justice and development through education, health, agriculture, and water and sanitation projects. Since 1963, Catholic Relief Services has provided relief and assistance in Burundi, including health centers, maternity centers and hospitals to combat AIDS; sustainable agricultural and livestock management; portable water and latrines throughout the country; and savings banks, mutual insurance systems and trade unions for economic growth.

For more information, or to contact Catholic Relief Services, see their website at: www.catholicrelief.org

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