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  • Keith Scott

I can go home but Burundians are home

One of the biggest challenges facing anyone doing any kind of business in Burundi is that the country is chronically short of hard currency. As a consequence, pretty much everything else is in short supply, including rice and other staples as well as sugar. Petrol and diesel are conspicuous by their absence. Even beer is in short supply. Not that beer is an absolute necessity, but it is a measure of economic ill-health that the breweries of Bujumbura, which managed to keep up production during war and genocide, are now struggling to meet demand.

With shortages on the street there are signs of underlying instability. Many I have spoken to openly express disaffection and the need for change. Some are taking their frustration to a more concerning level. The power supply problems I have experienced over the last few weeks were caused by an attack on two large transformers, and a grenade was thrown into the city’s main bus station one evening last week causing a very large number of injuries, some quite serious. My Burundian friends are quite worried that frustration and violence will grow. Those who get the opportunity are leaving.

This is the real world that the students I have been teaching will be going into, some in less than a year from now. They will be living and working in communities throughout the country in “interesting times”. They will have to work with the problems of chronic poverty, the highest unemployment rate in the world, and the worst childhood malnutrition. They will have to hold communities together in the face of the multiple temptations to fragmentation. They may well have to lift up a prophetic voice in a wilderness of self-interest as seen in the biblical texts we have been studying together.

I am going home but the students I leave behind are home. They don’t have anywhere else to go and if they did go elsewhere, it would do more harm than good. What they need is a continuing commitment to education and training, both from their local Bishops and people like us. Theological education and training which empowers them to meet the challenges and be that prophetic voice in these uneasy times.



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