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2022 Catena Lecture in Medicine, Faith, and Service: “For Human Dignity, I Will Not Keep Silent” – Marguerite Barankitse
Wednesday, April 6, 2022 at 5:30pm
Reception to follow at 7:00pm
FREE AND OPEN TO ALL
Join in person at:
Goodson Chapel, Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC
Visitor parking is available in the Bryan Center Parking Garage.
Join via the livestream.
Launched in 2019, the Catena lectureship invites speakers whose work displays innovative scholarship, service and institution-building at the intersection of theology, medicine and culture.
This year, we welcome Marguerite Barankitse, founder of Maison Shalom International in Rwanda, which she created to “be a house of peace and love, where the life of every human being and his dignity would be respected.”
Marguerite “Maggy” Barankitse was born at Nyamutobo in 1957 in Ruyigi province, East-Burundi,. She was a teacher at a local secondary school , she then went to work as a secretary for the Catholic bishop in Ruyigi.
Despite mounting tensions, Barankitse put her dream of ethnic harmony into practice by adopting seven children: four Hutus and three Tutsis. As violence escalated between the two tribes following the assassination of the first democratically elected president of Burundi, a group of armed Tutsis descended on Ruyigi on October 23, 1993, to kill the Hutu families who were hiding in the Bishop’s manor. Barankitse had managed to hide many of the children but was caught by the fighters. They beat and humiliated her and forced her to watch the killing of 72 Hutus, but she refused to tell them where the children were hidden. Ultimately, she was spared only because of her Tutsi heritage. After the ordeal, Barankitse gathered her adopted children and the surviving orphans and hid them in a nearby school. As more and more children sought shelter with her, she decided to create a small nongovernmental organization: Maison Shalom, the House of Peace. Her house was open to children of all ethnic origins: Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa. She calls them “My Hutsitwa children”, and they call her Oma (or “grandmother” in German). In the following years, Maison Shalom in Ruyigi was one of the few places in Burundi where Hutus and Tutsis cohabited in harmony.
Since the events of 1993, over 20,000 children and youth have benefited from Maison Shalom. Before the current crisis in Burundi, the organisation employed more than 270 people, including nurses, psychologists, and educators who implemented special projects for the children.
In April 2015, Barankitse spoke out against the third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza and joined the youth demonstrations denouncing him. As a result, she was obliged to hide for a month in an embassy in Bujumbura. Eventually, she had to flee; the government had her name on a death list. Barankitse found herself a refugee.
Yet, her refugee status did not stop her devotion to alleviating suffering: She has opened a branch of Maison Shalom in Rwanda.