The Jesuit Centre For Theological Reflection In Rwanda
Born in Rwanda, I belong to a deeply Christian family. The support of my parents’ faith, daily prayer, and Sunday worship nourished my desire to become a catholic priest. It was towards the end of my secondary school studies, after a time of intense prayer and spiritual guidance that I requested to join an apostolic religious community called the Society of Jesus and was accepted in August 2000. One of the main Universal Apostolic Preference of the Society of Jesus is “ to walk with individuals and communities that are vulnerable, excluded, marginalized, and humanity impoverished…the abused….The path we seek to follow with the poor is one that promotes social justice and the change of economic, political, and social structures that generate injustice.” As a member of this religious order within the Catholic Church, my Jesuit formation have been either intellectual or spiritual and apostolic formation linked to the service of faith and the promotion of justice. Therefore, I have been working with a number of non-profit organizations that operate under the umbrella of the Society of Jesus. This is particularly the case of the unaccompanied children’s Centre (CENA) , the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Rwanda , the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in Lusaka Zambia, Jesuit Centre For Research and social action commonly known as Jesuit Urumuri Centre (JUC), and Yezu Mwiza Service (YMS). It is also worth noting, by the way, other organizations with a non-profit orientation that have been relevant in my life. These include the Compassion International which sponsored my high school studies after the tragedy of the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 which cost the life of my father and many members of my immediate family, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) which intervened to ensure that child soldiers would be demobilized from the army in 1996 as well their reinsertion in their respective families, and the Word Food Program (WFP) for its food assistance during the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. In the next paragraphs, I will focus only on the three organizations since I have not only had the opportunity to work with them, but mainly because they respond to the mission of the Society of Jesus out of which I am a member. [1: “Inaugural Address of Fr. Enrico C. Eusebio SJ as 10th LST President,” accessed September 15, 2019, http://www.lst.edu/community/news-a-features/1539-inaugural-address-of-fr-enrico-c-eusebio-sj-as-10th-lst-president.] [2: The unaccompanied Children’s Centre was founded by the Society of Jesus in Rwanda Burundi Region after the genocide of the Tutsi in 1994 during which more than one million Tutsi perished leaving behind it many orphaned children. Following the successful insertion of children into foster families, in the 2000s, the centre was turned gradually into Mizero (hope) Vocation Training Centre “aiming to assist young men and women from poor families who had not had the chance to pursue secondary education. It offers to them a training of two years in sewing, embroidery, hospitality, construction and electricity. See“ “Education Ministry,” accessed September 15, 2019, http://www.jesuitsrwb.org/whatwedo/education-centers.] [3: JRS suspended its activities in the Congolese refugee camps in Rwanda in the early 2010s following a political conflict between its representatives and the Rwandan government. See “JRS Great Lakes,” JRS (blog), accessed September 16, 2019, https://jrs.net/en/jrs_offices/jrs-great-lakes/.]
1. Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR)
It was in 2012 during my pastoral fieldwork that I was able to work at JCTR, a project of the Zambia-Malawi Province of the Society of Jesus. Living in a continent where human rights are frequently violated and where injustices are part of people’s daily life, I felt invited to participate more actively in the Church’s Ministry of promoting Faith and Justice. That was my motivation to work with JCTR. Guided by the Church’s social teaching that emphasizes human dignity in the community, the mission of JCTR is to generate activities for the promotion of the fullness of human life through research, education, advocacy, and consultation. JCTR aims to promote an enculturated faith, gender equality, and empowerment of local communities in the work of justice and peace and the integrity of creation. To fulfill its mission, JCTR works through three programs and an outreach support: (1) Economic Equity and Development, (2) Social condition, (3) Faith and Justice and (4) JCTR Outreach Support. During the two months spent at JCTR, I was volunteering in the Faith and Justice Program.  My duty was to prepare the 2013 calendar that JCTR publishes every year. The hope of JCTR is that the calendar educates those who use it on Catholic Social Teachings – especially those themes that call the users to realize that their faith is alive not simply in words but also in deeds. My greatest satisfaction was to see the printing of that yearbook. [4: See “Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection,” Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, accessed September 15, 2019, https://www.jctr.org.zm/.]
Yezu Mwiza Service (YMS)
Yezu Mwiza Service is a medico-social work of the Society of Jesus, in the Jesuit Region of Rwanda-Burundi, since July 2008. Yezu Mwiza is a Kirundi name, the national language of Burundi, which means ‚Compassionate Jesus. Before 2008, Yezu Mwiza Service was operating as an AIDS Project of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Burundi since 2000. SYM aims at promoting the global health in Burundi through medical care and support of persons living with HIV, economic empowerment of underserved communities with a preferential option for the poor. It is within this framework that it ensures a comprehensive (medical, psychosocial, economic and spiritual) care of the people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and other vulnerable children, and poor people suffering from chronic diseases. Yezu Mwiza Service currently serves 1 300 persons living with HIV/AIDS, 2582 orphans and other vulnerable children in Bujumbura rural and in the suburbs of Bujumbura city.  Yezu Mwiza Service runs an HIV clinic at its social headquarter in Bujumbura. Yezu Mwiza Service uses also mobile clinic strategy to reach underserved communities and remote areas. Mobile clinic consists on going to the field with a package of medical and psychosocial services and deliver them to the community within the community. This strategy of mobile clinic increases the retention in care of beneficiaries and allows vulnerable persons to have access to health services. Those who were doomed to walk more than 15 km to reach a health facility get health services in their community. Yezu Mwiza Service’s objectives include (1) Reach underserved communities of Burundi with accurate and easy-to-understand information related to their health and well-being; (2) Accompany, treat and support persons living with HIV, tuberculosis and leprosy; (3) Economic empowerment of vulnerable families including widowed mothers, orphans and other vulnerable children; (4) Youth and adolescent empowerment through life skills trainings. In order to implement its activities, Service Yezu Mwiza has partnered with many local and international donors and funders such as the Ministry of Public health of Burundi, USAID, CARE International, African Jesuit aids Network (AJA) and so on. [5: “Burundi: Service Yezu Mwiza,” AJAN (blog), March 12, 2015, https://ajan.africa/burundi-service-yezu-mwiza-2/.]
During my studies in Business Administration at the Université Lumière de Bujumbura (The Light University of Bujumbura), I used to volunteer at YSM. I took a particular interest to visit the beneficiaries of YSM especially in the suburbs of Bujumbura City. In one of those areas, I found out that there was a small group of HIV positive women who came together to support each other. I often visited, conversed and shared a meal with them. I gathered their feelings, stories, and memories. These women have undergone a lot of difficulties. The majority contracted HIV, not because they misbehaved, but because they had no choice but to ‘sleep’ with men in order to get a living or because of rape during the civil war which lasted more than 15 years or domestic violence. I remember one of them who had a mother who was in the hospital; the mother could not be discharged for lack of money. She decided to sleep with some men in a nearby brothel to get money to bail her mother out. Others were ‘sold’ by their relatives to bar-men to get school fees for their siblings. In the process, they contracted HIV. A few of them got HIV because they misbehaved. Therefore, I realized that economic imbalances, poverty, unemployment, social relationship, human trafficking, and gender inequality are “indirectly” the root causes of HIV. The structures of economic (how resources are organised), political (underlying power in society), socio-cultural (seeking out the dominant values and meaning in society), gender, religious, and ecological structures have an impact on society. This confirms Pope Paul VI’ words emphasizing that “there cannot be progress if a small restricted group enjoys a refined civilization in a certain region, [while] the remainder of the population, poor and scattered is deprived of nearly all possibilities of personal initiative and of responsibility and oftentimes even its living and working conditions are unworthy of the human person.” Furthermore, it explains the reason for the existence of non-profit organizations such as that of Yezu Mwiza Service. [6: “Populorum Progressio (March 26, 1967) | Paul VI,” accessed September 17, 2019, http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_26031967_populorum.html.]
2. Jesuit Urumuri Centre
Jesuit Urumuri Centre (JUC) is a social justice apostolate under the aegis of the Society of Jesus (Compagnie de Jesus) in Rwanda-Burundi Region. Inspired by the Jesuit missionary commitment to the propagation of faith and promotion of justice, the centre endeavors to actualize the bearing of the Gospel justice in relation to individual and social welfare with particular attention to the poor and the neediest. Created in 1992, the centre known at the time as “Centre Socio-Culturel”, aimed at serving as a social arm of the spirituality Centre – Centre Christus. Initially, the Centre promoted social and cultural activities focusing mainly on documentation and research. Gradually it expanded its activities. Nowadays, the centre strives to discharge its duties in a fourfold approach; namely formation, social support, publication and advocacy, and lastly but not least documentation. JUC provides short tailored training workshops which seem to be at different stages of development and maturity. Through publications, conferences, library facilities, the centre provides also a platform for grassroots solution-searching and intellectual debates aiming at raising people’s consciences to the evangelical demand of confronting one’s faith to the reality of injustice that perpetuates inequality and marginalization of the vulnerable in society. The centre promotes research and reflection on issues pertaining to social, economic and religious experiences of ordinary populace while also keeping in touch with their global significance. Its mission is to promote social justice for the integral development of all, especially the neediest through research and social action. Therefore, JUC has a vision of creating a society where faith inspires action for the well-being of everyone through the promotion of the intrinsic dignity and rights of all people. The Centre does it by accompanying them and studying their social reality while at the same time setting up services that comprehensively meet their needs; and intervening to help them live in decent conditions.
What I would change in these three organizations mentioned above is how their executive directors are assigned. Their assigning is not necessarily based on their competencies, but rather on the fact that they are required to be Jesuit priests.
- “Burundi: Service Yezu Mwiza.” AJAN (blog), March 12, 2015. https://ajan.africa/burundi-service-yezu-mwiza-2/.
- “Education Ministry.” Accessed September 15, 2019. http://www.jesuitsrwb.org/whatwedo/education-centers.
- “Inaugural Address of Fr. Enrico C. Eusebio SJ as 10th LST President.” Accessed September 15, 2019. http://www.lst.edu/community/news-a-features/1539-inaugural-address-of-fr-enrico-c-eusebio-sj-as-10th-lst-president.
- “Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection.” Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection. Accessed September 15, 2019. https://www.jctr.org.zm/.
- “JRS Great Lakes.” JRS (blog). Accessed September 16, 2019. https://jrs.net/en/jrs_offices/jrs-great-lakes/.
- “Populorum Progressio (March 26, 1967) | Paul VI.” Accessed September 17, 2019. http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_26031967_populorum.html.