Anglican presence in Burundi makes a difference

Published May 1, 2009

This plaque at the National Council of Churches of Burundi states that the place was rehabilitated in 2005 by PWRDF.

“I WANT TO tell you how I lost my arms.”

That is the opening line of a feature article on page 1, and the words are spoken by Francine Nijimbere, a 26-year-old mother living in Burundi. Her story is both alarming and tragic, almost incomprehensible to our Western sensibilities.

Anglican Journal staff writer Marites Sison spent time visiting Burundi, accompanying a delegation from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). Her stories and photographs appeared in the April Journal, on the Journal Web site, and will conclude with this edition.

This isn’t, however, an editorial about the 13 years of civil war in Burundi nor of the brutality that has claimed thousands of lives. This editorial is about the Anglican church’s response to Burundi and the other “Burundis” in the world.

Amazingly, most of the pictures of the women, men and children who welcomed Archbishop Fred Hiltz, PWRDF director Cheryl Curtis and others consist of joy-filled, life-loving, God-glorifying faces. One would expect faces that reflect despair amid a life of poverty; hopelessness in a world filled with HIV-AIDS; anger in the daily reality of violence against women.

While much of the attitude of Burundians is the result of their resilience in the face of ongoing conflict, their hope is built upon a strong faith, reinforced by programs funded by Canadian Anglicans through PWRDF.

Dioceses and individuals annually give about $4 million to PWRDF, an indication of the level of compassion and commitment by ordinary, everyday Anglicans.

This world relief and development organization works with local groups and the diocese of Bujumbura to fund projects that address difficult issues in Burundi: poor maternal and child health, HIV-AIDS, poverty, violence against women and peace-building.

This is a partnership at several levels: firstly, Anglicans partnering and trusting PWRDF with their donations; then PWRDF staff working with organizations on the ground in Burundi (and hundreds of other communities around the world), identifying need and creating sustainable programs; and finally PWRDF working in partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to secure those funds and to ensure financial accountability.

PWRDF is the global face of the Anglican Church of Canada when it comes to relief and development. This organization represents hope to the people in the diocese of Bujumbura. Little wonder then, that PWRDF staff, youth representatives, and the primate received a warm reception when they visited their communities. Burundians were moved by the notion that Canadians would travel all that way to meet with them, eat with them, celebrate with them and commiserate with them.

The name, Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, really is a misnomer: it’s not really the primate’s fund at all, even though Archbishop Hiltz, the primate, currently chairs the board.

Calling itself The Anglican Relief and Development Fund would be more appropriate but that name is taken.

The strength of PWRDF is that it doesn’t impose Western solutions upon its partners. It encourages and supports local initiatives.

Whenever a disaster strikes and there is a need for an emergency response, local relief organizations know exactly what is needed, where it is needed, and when. Partners learn from each other.

PWRDF depends heavily upon Anglican donations and government grants in order to carry out its commitment to its partner organizations.

As Francine Nijimbere’s story tugs at your heart, and as a strong sense of helplessness overwhelms you, it is good to realize that the Anglican Church of Canada, and you as a solitary Anglican, are making a difference by supporting the work of PWRDF.


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