The Holy See
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Ms. Marguerite Barankitse,
founder of NGO Maison Shalom
Sunday, June 21st 2008


So here we are – I am such a timid person.

His Eminence, Cardinal Ouellet, when I received your letter, I thought, well maybe they made a mistake - are they really knowing what I am doing here?

It has been a year now that I received your invitation, and thank you, thank you so much, thank you for the challenge you gave me – but I still have quite a problem.

It is with Sister Francine and Msgr. Picher, I disobeyed you - I didn’t give you my text – so I beg for forgiveness – why? why not give my text?

I am here dear brothers and sisters, in front of these Cardinals, in front of these Bishops, these religious men and women – all these personalities, I am in front of you all, but I represent the street child, the soldier kid, the child that has known such suffering, the violated mother of Eastern Congo, the mother that suffered war in Burundi; how, how to witness to the Eucharist in the midst of the world, and put it down on a sheet of paper…

It is impossible – and I ask all of you to please, to please put down your pencils and forget your titles, and I ask the interpreters to forget your interpretations and simply lend me your hearts.

I come from a country, which is the smallest, the forgotten one - and recently the

World Bank wrote, that it is the poorest of all countries – so the 177th country in terms of wealth, I don’t know what kind of wealth but, and in front of the World Bank, the Chairman of the World Bank, I said no, we are not the last. What kind of wealth are you talking about?

I come and give witness of the Eucharist in the midst of a world – in a world where the Eucharistic values do not exist, where we have to be in the rich country, and you here in the rich countries, you are weeping over Africa, except here, except here today, here, you have accepted to listen to me. Thank you.

Except today, where we know that the most beautiful, the greatest wealth, is God. Where you have dared to bring together peoples of all categories, and to conclude with someone who has no category at all…

All because one day as I found myself on a train going from Paris to Brussels, I took a newspaper “Libération” – a Paris newspaper – and I saw the headlines – our crazy woman from Burundi – so I looked at it – I wanted to know which crazy woman that was – and I see it was my picture.

And then, my neighbour on the train because I was looking at the article, he saw the text and he told me, so you are the crazy one – I said yes, as a matter of fact.

And all along that trip, well I read, and I saw that the journalist was right, because the first crazy one, who was the first one to be crazy? Jesus.

This being said, this craziness was born out of a rebellion – I was born in a country when we are not afraid to kill – the only country in the world where the Apostolic Nuncio was killed, an Archbishop was killed in our country – the representative of UNICEF was killed – the representative of the W.H.O. was killed, and on that day my vocation was born, on October 24, 1993, where believing that I was a strong Christian, I had protected people.

People don’t know the history of Burundi – even the Burundi people, like brothers and sisters, they are not speaking the same language - there are two languages, there is the Hutu language and the Tutsi language – the two components of the Burundi society - and I am ashamed about it today – and as I am in family, so we can wash our dirty clothing, so I will tell you about that.

And the Burundi people who are here present, they are Tutsi like I am – they will be disappointed – now they will say, she is going to betray us once again, huh? – like this Commander of the Army that found me one day as I was trying to save babies and rebellious Hutu mothers – and I am a Tutsi - he looked at me, he took me, he wanted to put me in jail – and in the end he said, you are the direct chastisement that God sent to us. I am not the direct chastisement that God sent to Tutsis, I said, I am the blessing. I was created out of love, to love, this is the most beautiful calling of the human being - that’s love.

On that day when the rebellious Hutu caught me and told me, and he had a weapon, so kneel down – and I said no – no – I am never kneeling in front of a human being – I kneel only before God.

Then he told me you don’t want to kneel down – I’ll shoot you – but he was a young man – he was 17 – he had a rosary, and I told him, I told him, I will kneel down, but you give me your rosary because I forgot mine. Then he said, will say rosary so kneel down too… – and he told me, we have to pray?

I said, why this rosary, and a weapon – they don’t go together – but I’ll tell you one thing, give back that weapon to the one who gave it to you – and come, come with me, and I will give you a new dignity, I will make you a child of Shalom House… and today, he is my driver.

I tell you I start with that because the atrocities that I have experienced - if I had tried to carry all of that in my heart, I would be depressed – you know I have protected 72 persons – they were Hutus – I am a Tutsi, and the Bishop, on the 24th of October 1993, that made me what I am today, a rebellious woman, – and the Tutsis, my brothers, when they came, they obliged me, they tied me up, and they assassinated them in front of me. When they asked questions afterwards, when they told me to betray these people, I said… no - before I am a Tutsi, I am a Christian – and they told me, we will show you that you are a Tutsi first of all – I told them I don’t agree - I did not choose to be a Tutsi – I am a Tutsi – but Christian, yes, I did choose, I chose to be a Christian – and I can deny my Baptism, but I can’t deny my ethnic origins – it is stupid to hate people because of their ethnic origins. But what I am sure of is, that love is always, always the winner.

And as they were killing them in front of me, and afterwards when they left, I went to the Chapel, and I said, Lord since my childhood my mother taught me that you are a God of love – show me please, how you can give me brothers who are criminals - they weren’t ashamed to kill in front of me - and as I was in tears, I hear in the sacristy, the children I had raised who are saying, He’s always a God of love, mommy, He’s always there – and I said, Lord, teach me from now on, teach me how to carry that message of love to the hearts of my brothers and sisters in Burundi who have accepted hatred because of their ethnic origin – and who have forgotten their belonging to the most noble family, the family of the children of God.

Then, from now on, from then on, I took 25 children and I fled, but with an idea, the idea that God is God, and that all the rest has no importance whatsoever for me - I have rebuilt the Shalom House where I put Hutu and Tutsi children together, and Congolese as well, and I told the children, your ethnic origin is Shalom.

The journalists came and they asked me, you are crazy - you know, you westerners when there is no clear strategy, clear programming, specific objectives, oh boy! you can’t do anything – well, you want to trust God, but first you need insurance, security, in order, for at least 100 years – so they came and they were trying to discourage me - they even made news reports, and the first article in J.O. magazine, they entitled it, a Holy woman in Hell, and they concluded by saying will she, will that woman go into a depression – but unfortunately, they just wrote another article to say that she should get the Nobel prize for Peace…

The same journalist, just three months ago, he came back, and he told me the secret of saying that God is carrying the world; I am beginning to believe it.

The Bishops came to our place and they told me, what is your spirituality? I stuttered and I said, well it is spirituality that, that covers everything – they told me, well be careful, because maybe you should found a Congregation, and I said I will give them these children – you know families are congregations, but I won’t have an orphanage for them. Then, they looked at me – they said she is crazy…

But now you are inviting me, it is Bishops who invited me.

To be crazy with all of you…

And I will conclude with that…

Will we have the audacity to be crazy with the Eucharist?

Are we going to dare to stop, to stop closing in upon ourselves, and to try and describe the Eucharist?

The Eucharist is not found in writing - the Eucharist is not found in your pastoral letters, the Eucharist is not found in your convents - the Eucharist, we are the Eucharist - the Eucharist is on the market place - let us dare to open our Bishop palaces and go to the market places. Let us have the audacity to open our families and to go to the others…

That is it…

Let me conclude, because it is here that they had told me, I want to tell you like John Littleton says (singing): GO, GO ON THE PLACES, AND BE MY WITNESSES EVERY DAY, ohhhh