Bishop Malcolm and his wife, Pam, visited Burundi in East Africa during July and spent time with the Diocese of Bujumbura, learning about ministry and mission in a very different context to the Diocese of Derby.
Bishop Malcolm writes:
Burundi is the poorest country in the world – the one thing it has in common with Derbyshire is a beautiful landscape of hills and valleys.
Life is very hard indeed for those who live in rural areas – the city is seen as a place of opportunity, which works for some, but even there the need for investment is always apparent.
The shadow of violent episodes in recent history remains, but people are hopeful about the future, and determined to work for peace and greater prosperity.
We found folks extremely hospitable, and rightly proud of their heritage and of their culture.
Travelling around the diocese you see just how precarious peoples’ livelihoods are.
This is especially so where steep slopes are vulnerable to flash floods in the rainy season, often causing devastating mudslides which destroying fields, homes, livelihoods, and endangering lives also.
One of the inspiring programmes the diocese is engaged with is helping local people get together in cooperatives to grow seedlings and plant trees, so that their roots will protect their fields and gardens from soil erosion.
Eroded land is washed away by heavy rains
Empowering women and young people
As well as attending a glorious ordination service in the cathedral, and a wedding blessing in a village church, we had the opportunity to visit a range of innovative community projects.
The diocese is very involved in community development, the church working locally on initiatives that empower people living in poverty, especially women and young people.
Churches are full of young people – tiny, inquisitive, eager children everywhere, and older youths enjoying church as a forum for securing friendships and building community.
Whilst music and singing are lively and active, there is real depth and quality to the worship, and a sense that being Christian there is about the whole of life – home, family, livelihood – and the liturgy reflected this.
We just did two tourist things. We visited Lake Tanganyika one afternoon with Bishop Eraste - and given the immense size of the lake, it was like being at the seaside!
And we met the Royal Drummers of Burundi – which you can check out on YouTube – they were fantastic.
I look forward to opportunities to share more about the work of the Diocese of Bujumbura in the autumn, when this year’s harvest appeal will support tree planting projects there.
Bishop Eraste Bigirimana at a Bujumbura tree planting event