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Friends of Burundi Meeting
On Saturday 22 April 2006  
St Mark’s Church, Kennington Oval, London SE11, 

The Speakers were 

François Nitunga, leader of Rema Ministries

Théo Mbazumutima, HIV/AIDS coordinator for Rema Ministires

23 people attended
After registration and refreshments Alison Gill opened the meeting by welcoming everyone.  She then read from 2 Corinthians 1 : 1 – 7.

 1.   Theo Mbazumutima and Francois Nitunga (Director) of Rema Ministries then gave an hour’s presentation of their work in Burundi .

“Rema”  is Kirundi for encouraging, strengthening and consoling.  Rema Ministries is a Christian NGO giving hope and raising self esteem with those who have been traumatized by war, natural disaster and HIV/Aids. The main thrust of their work is done in the nine or so refugee and settlement camps (500,000 Barundi alone) along the Burundi/Tanzanian border involving traveling hundreds of miles on mud roads. Ongoing problems with transport but thanks to Rema supporters the vehicle is in working order.

The work of Rema is three fold – Mission & Evangelism; HIV/Aids Education and care and Peace building/Reconciliation.

  Mission & Evangelism : Recent initiatives include teaching children and distributing school materials; distributing food to refugees and setting up a refugee fellowship; distribution of Bibles in camps.

HIV/Aids education and care: Training Community Based Educators (CBEs) in rural areas to educate and support their own communities; encouragement of small handicraft projects particularly among orphans and widows stigmatized by HIV/Aids. 30,000 Barundi have been reached in this way.

Peace Building & Reconciliation: Training church leaders; preparing local churches to cope with their own issues; facilitating peace and reconciliation meetings between Hutu and Tutsi.

Francois asked us to pray for

v     Him and Theo in the demanding work

v     Refugees returning to find that their own families have taken over their land – main problem

v     progress in Burundi in all respects – slow at the moment

v     for the President who is trying to get it right

v     for the church in Burundi which “has a long way to go to convince the Barundi that Christianity is the way (at present Islam is gaining ground eg 2 national Islam holidays)

Sarah, Alison’s friend, led prayer topics in small groups for the work of Rema

2.       Alison introduced Rosie Havyarimana, a Murundi, who has settled with her family in UK .  She described the loneliness and overwhelming difficulties of starting from scratch in the UK without any family support.  Her church, St Mark’s Kennington, became her lifeline and source of support and friendship. She misses her country in all respects.  Rosie asked us to pray:

v     For ways to raise our awareness of the plight of Burundi both here and in Africa

v     For Barundi to be able to return to their own country

v     For the Government to make “heart” decisions

3.      Alison gave brief summaries of those involved in mission to Burundi :

Pat and Pam Brooks Returned from 2 months in Matana – Pat teaching on 1 Tim 2 in 5  Archdeaconry visits, teaching alongside Roger and Martin in Theological Institute and teaching during Lent in Hill Churches; Pam distributed over 700 pairs of specs and  initiated the chili and passion fruit project with Pelagie through the MU

v     Please pray for Pat’s right hip – Exeter hospital has asked him to rest for 3 months before making further decisions – Pat unable to put pressure on the leg so difficulty in getting around

William Challis spent 2 weeks in Matana teaching at the Institute and encouraging the team.

Rosemary Cottingham, Provincial Communication Secretary,  has been granted a further 2 yr visa to continue working in the Bujumbura office

v     Please pray as she works mainly alone on the Burundi history project

Sue Finlayson (3 ½ wks) and Joan Botterill (3 wks) visited Burundi accompanying Pat and Pam in their work in Matana and meeting friends and Diocesan staff.  In Bujumbura visits were made to Rainbow Project (run by Mathilde Archbishop Bernard’s wife) for abandoned HIV babies and the Centre for Trauma & Reconciliation run by David Niyonzima with whom Alison will be working on her next visit.

Richard and Prilla Rowland had taught representatives from the Diocese at Matana on People Living with Aids using the reconciliation of Jesus on the cross to deal with pain and shame.

4.         Alison Gill  talked of her plans to work in Burundi long term and has 1 ½ yrs before completing her MSc in Therapeutic Counselling.  She is writing a dissertation on the experiences of  counselling and Christian inner healing in Burundi . She had a very profitable weekend with Dr Rhiannon Lloyd who is experienced in trauma/reconciliation work worldwide.  Alison has been invited by Rema to train in basic counselling skills during her next visit in June/July and invited by the Trauma Centre to research whether those who have received counseling for rape/trauma are helped in the long term

Alison asks for prayer

v     For her dissertation and ongoing studies

v     For preparations for her trip in June/July

v     For Burundi 's long term future

5.         Roger Bowen  said he and Miranda are returning after 1 month in UK .  Our support in prayer and in giving is much appreciated.

o       Miranda is working with Eularie to support HIV/Aids Orphan families and with Vincent (Principal of Bible College & Diocesan Secretary) using her management and possibly project development skills to improve the Diocesan structures – not easy with Archbishop away so much thus delaying any decision making.

o       Roger continues to teach at the Theological Institute which serves all 6 Dioceses – candidates at present from 3 – assisted by Martin and Pastor Jonas who has just joined the team

o       Primary Schools are to incorporate English and Kiswahili into the curriculum in addition to French and Kirundi – pressure on children. Institute students may need more English language input to assist in degree courses in Uganda .

o       Is teaching information or transformation based? Are the students changed? Roger encouraging more reflection in the students. Why are highly Christian countries so corrupt/war bent – information teaching methods have not led to transformation in these countries?  Sense that Christians don’t get involved in politics but we do need to be salt and light.

o       Growth of singing groups in churches – mainly singing about going to heaven but we are also charged with being salt and light and so a huge challenge is to come to terms with the past and to make their faith relevant for the present

o       Recently the death of the Archbishop’s father – a man who had lived on the hill and was a traditionalist - in contrast his son has travelled the world and is working in the 21st century

o       Sheena McBain is in the UK recovering from a foot injury

o       Simon Gillebaud’s poor health is consistently linked to his preaching the Gospel

Roger and Miranda Bowen asked for Prayer

v     for return and leaving family

v     for adjusting to new medication for levels

6.         Friends of Burundi

o       Pam Brooks reported that an FoB Bank Account would be set up shortly and each member will pay a fee of £10 a year

o       How do we want to meet in the future – ideally meetings to be linked to Barundi visiting UK .

o       Reminder : 6 May 2006, MAM meeting at Highfield, Southampton

o       Reminder: November 24 – 25 - MAM Conference, Swanwick

o       Kevin Ward suggested that the Uganda Church Association of which he is a Trustee could provide guidance for FoB.

o       Pam thanked Alison for her organization of this successful and very informative meeting.

Alison brought the meeting to a close and Francois prayed in conclusion. 

Photos from the meeting


Draft minutes of the inaugural meeting and photos of the new committee




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