Monday, August 4, 2008

War and Love

This is a story about our dear friend in Nairobi, Pastor Jean-Paul....we simply call him "The Pastor".

The Pastor is from Burundi. He met the love of his life in the early 1990's. They just happened to be from two different tribes. When ethnic genocide broke out after the 1993 assassination of their democratically elected president, their lives quickly spiraled into madness. Here is a short history lesson on the conflict....as shown on Wikipedia:

In 1993, Burundi first held democratic presidential elections which were won by the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU). FRODEBU leader Melchior Ndadaye became Burundi's first elected President and also Hutu President. But a few months later, he was assassinated by a group of Tutsi army officers. The killing was a pretense for the Tutsi army to start a new genocide against the Hutu. Tutsi extremists massacred thousands of Hutu civilians. Years of instability followed, and unelected dictator Pierre Buyoya took power in a coup.[24] In August 2000, a peace deal was agreed by most of Burundi's political groups. Unfortunately, it made no distinction between political parties and genocidal forces, as both were allowed to play a role in the national institutions. The deal laid out a timetable for the restoration of democracy. After several more years of genocide against the Hutu, a cease-fire was signed in 2003 between the Tutsi controlled Burundian government and the largest Hutu rebel group, CNDD-FDD (National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy).[25] In April 2003, FRODEBU leader Domitien Ndayizeye had replaced Buyoya as Burundi's president.[26] Fighting between the Tutsis and Hutus continues to the present day.

During those times, they tried to take refuge together but were prohibited because they could only stay within their own tribal areas. He would try and take refuge with her but her family members would not allow it. Likewise, she would try and take refuge with him but his family members refused. They ended up having to take refuge separately. The Pastor speaks of thousands of bodies spread across the countryside.

Eventually, The Pastor fled Burundi to the Congo. He only stayed one day in the Congo because there was a huge exodus of people leaving Burundi and heading to the Congo. Once back in Burundi, he made arrangements to flee to Kenya.

Once in Kenya, he fell into the good graces of a Norwegian family here in Nairobi. They allowed him a place to stay and looked after him for a while. Eventually, The Pastor met another Norwegian family that was vacationing here. That family provided the funds so that he could fly his wife and one year old son out of Burundi and the madness of the war and into Nairobi. Just so happens that the flight she was on was the very last flight in 1996 before the embargo on air travel to and from Burundi from Nairobi. That generous Norwegian family also sponsored their family in Nairobi for a year until they could get their feet on the ground.

His wife tells of the day she was supposed to die. She was taken by a group of men and they were driving to the area in which they would kill people. During the journey, she spoke up that they did not have to kill her there, they could kill her right there. They stopped the vehicle and she laid on the ground. She was severely beaten by the men but they decided not to kill her.

They speak of family members lost during the war. They speak of their fond memories of Burundi before the war and their desire to return there with their four beautiful children once they can afford it. They have visited Burundi once or twice since 2005 and the signing of the peace accord but their children have never seen Burundi and cannot speak their mother tongue.


The Pastor and his wife really have an amazing outlook on life. Their faith in life and love is infectious to everyone around them. The Pastor says it very simply, "There is nothing stronger than love."
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