A message from the Bishop of Qu’Appelle:
Refugee Crisis in Burundi

Earlier this month, I was contacted by Bishop Paisible Ndacayisaba of the Diocese of Muyinga, part of the Anglican Church of Burundi. Following a controversial national election and an attempted coup d’etat earlier this year, there has been a great deal of civil unrest throughout Burundi, and particularly in the capital, Bujumbura. There has been a significant escalation of the violence over the past month. On one day in early December, 87 people were killed across Bujumbura in targeted attacks.

Like neighbouring Rwanda, the principal ethnic groups in Burundi are the Hutu and Tutsi peoples. Many will recall the genocidal violence in Rwanda in the early 1990s. Burundi was also affected, and entered into a long period of civil war that only ended in 2002. There are fears throughout the region that the strife in Burundi may soon descend into another attempted genocide.

Muyinga is about 200 kilometres away from Bujumbura, and has become the destination for scores of refugees from the capital. Bishop Paisible reports that many are arriving malnourished, with no possessions. Some of the children do not even have clothing.

The Diocese of Qu’Appelle has had a companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Muyinga since 2009. Our former Bishop, Greg Kerr-Wilson, visited Muyinga later that year, and their former Bishop, Eraste Bigirimana, has visited Qu’Appelle. (Bishop Eraste is now Bishop of Bujumbura. We have heard that he and his family are safe.)

Our Diocese has supported Deacon Alexis from Muyinga through four years of medical training. The Revd Blair and Karen Dixon of St. Matthew, Regina visited Muyinga earlier this year.

One of the projects of our diocesan Living the Mission campaign, is to provide funds to build a hospital in Muyinga. Qu’Appelle paid for a feasibility study, and to date, we had raised approximately $9,000 toward the building of the hospital. In light of the desperate situation in Burundi, and the urgent need identified by Bishop Paisible, Diocesan Council has authorized the release of $6,000 from that fund for emergency aid. More than 95 percent of the money was spent on food for the refugees (beans and maize), with less than five percent spent on fuel for transporting the aid.

I am very proud of the effort our diocesan family has made to sponsor the Moussa family and the Abbo family from Iraq. It was a joy to be at the airport last month to see a family reunited in safety and security here in Canada. I thank you all for your support of the Diocesan refugee fund. But now I’m asking you to dig a little bit deeper.

I have directed that every church in the Diocese provide an opportunity for worshippers at services from Christmas Eve (December 24) until the Baptism of Our Lord (January 10) to contribute an additional free-will offering to help the displaced refugees in Muyinga. Donations may be directed through parishes or directly to the Diocese of Qu’Appelle. Please ensure that they are clearly marked for the Muyinga Refugee Fund. All money raised will be sent to the Diocese of Muyinga, and Bishop Paisible will provide an accounting of how the money was used.

I also ask you to remember the people of Burundi in your prayers, that genocide may be averted and peace restored.

In our Christmas celebrations, we remember a family who could not find room at the inn. We remember a saviour whose first bed was a feeding trough for cattle. Sometime after his birth, our Saviour and his family were refugees, fleeing the wrath of a violent king.

Years later, that same Saviour told a story where he set out the standard for how Christians should respond to those in need:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand,

"Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit

the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation

of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I

was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked

and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took

care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was

it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or

thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when

was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you,

or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it

that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?"

And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just

as you did it to one of the least of these who are

members of my family, you did it to me."

(Matthew 25: 34 – 40)

May the God of infinite goodness scatter the darkness of sin and despair and enlighten our hearts with holiness as we celebrate the coming of the Word made flesh.

Yours in Christ,

The Right Reverend Robert Hardwick