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A Rebellion of Love

January 14, 2010

“Welcome to the house of foolish people,” said Maggy Barankitse to us last night here in Bujumbura, Burundi at the fourth African Great Lakes Initiative gathering of 120 Christian leaders.  “If you lived at Maison Shalom (“Home of Peace”) you would be as foolish as I am.”

This  7-minute video powerfully captures Maggy’s “rebellion of love.”   I am just back now from my second visit to her ministry in a week; this time with the entire gathering, four hours up the beautiful, fertile mountains to Ruyigi.

Last week after morning worship in the “Chapel of the Beatitudes” she built next to her home, Maggy took us to the church grounds where, in 1993, she was forced to watch 72 friends killed in ethnic violence.  On this killing field in the town where she grew up, Maggy has embraced over 2,000 war orphans of many different ethnicities—building a new community shared between people of all ethnic groups:  a first-class hospital, nursing school, cinema, swimming pool, and “homes” for war-orphaned children.  The driver of her Toyota SUV once came to try to kill her—she not only talked him out of it, but offered him a job.

Touring with Maggy earlier this week she offered a powerful critique of the humanitarianism climate.  “The misery of children have become the profit of the NGO’s,” said Maggy.  “People get used to the giving.  They create institutions around the giving.”

“Orphanages are stupid,” she continued.  “Donors come with food, with shoes.  It is what the North doesn’t understand.  They continue because they have an orphanage named after one of their heroes.  But the orphanage is not for the children.  It’s for the donors and we (Africans) become beggars.  I am not here to educate the children.  I am here to give them vision to stop the war.  A truck comes to help people—the U.N., World Food Program, and the people dance.  Why not instead give them the ability to cultivate and to produce their own food?  It’s laziness on both sides.”

Early on in her work, filling out grant forms, Maggy looked over the sections requiring “vision,” “objectives,” “outcomes,” and simply filled in the word “love” for each.  “Love made me an inventor,” she says.  “Why didn’t you start this beautiful hospital in the city?” she says someone asked her once.  “I wanted to start in a small place,” she said.  “Just like Jesus born in Nazareth, a small place.”

About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.  He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.

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