Maggy Barankitse, mother to 20,000 children, pays a visit to Lyon

Marguerite Barankitse, known as Maggy, paid a visit to Lyon in October 2017. On Tuesday, October 3, two remarkable meetings took place: the first was at the Bioforce Development Institute in Vénissieux, and the second at the Made In Institute. The collaboration between Ahimsa Fund and Maggy Barankitse goes back some time, to a first meeting in 2007. It was within the context of this long-standing partnership that Maggy paid a visit to the ten Burundians who have been studying at the Made In Institute since the beginning of last year. We take a look back at an emotion-charged evening…

« “It was children who taught me how to forgive.” »
Marguerite Barankitse

An evening at the Théâtre des Carmes

Marguerite Barankitse was born in Ruyigi in Burundi in the late 1950s, and anyone who has met her will be able to attest that her energy and iron determination have lost nothing as the years have passed. Nicknamed the mother of 20,000 children, as she has personally saved more than 20,000 and Maison Shalom has helped more than 47,000, Maggy began her work with orphans in 1972. Maggy Barankitse is one of the world's great contemporary activists, along with Sister Emmanuelle, Rosa Parks and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, all of whom she has in fact met. These activists for peace help to give a voice, both political and human, to the importance of living in harmony with each other.

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Maggy Barankitse and Maison Shalom

Despite the barbaric acts that she has witnessed, Maggy has, against all the odds, provided a home for orphans from all origins. And she is a long way from giving up the fight. Among the many atrocities of the conflict in Burundi, the events of October 24, 1993, played a particular part in determining her vocation; on that day, she witnessed the massacre of 72 people. Some of the assassins were members of her own family. That day, she gathered up 25 children, who had miraculously been spared. These included Lydia and Lysette, the children of a murdered friend, who would become Maggy's first adoptive daughters. filles adoptives.

Following these massacres, she decided to create Maison Shalom an NGO, in May 1994: it would be a home and “house of hope” for all of the orphans that the massacres and fratricidal wars of Burundi and Rwanda left in their wake.

Maggy Barankitse

Spreading a little light

When asked where she finds her strength, Maggy simply says that she was lucky to have an extraordinary mother, from whom she learned to “spread a little light”. There is no doubt that every child taken in by Maison Shalom would also say that they have found an extraordinary mother in Maggy. magazine Géo, which dubbed her “a saint in hell”, ran a biography on her in 2009 and declared that she deserved the Nobel Peace Prize .

“I was lucky to have an extraordinary mother.”
Maggy Barankitse

Colloboi
“In Burundi, there are little candles called ‘colloboi’. Maggy’s mother told her that she could choose to be a colloboi, and thus always provide light in the darkness. And that is the advice that Maggy passes on to all of the young people who cross her path. She tells us to shine, and that all her children are princes and princesses who must spread the light.”

Burundian students at the Made In Institute

The aim of this event was to highlight the shared project, between Ahimsa Fund, Maison Shalom and the Made In Institute, to welcome young Burundian refugees into host families and thus enable them to study in France, at the institute. Ahimsa Fund, which helps to coordinate these activities, assists and supports Maison Shalom in this project. The Made In Institute has a significant role to play, as it takes responsibility for the students' education.

A warm welcome for the ten Burundian students

One of the high points of the evening was the moment when the ten young Burundian students joined Maggy on stage at the Théâtre des Carmes. The audience, which included all of the Made In Institute's students, rose to the occasion and the applause was something to hear! Among these students was Merveille, a young girl who spoke at the most recent Ahimsa Forum, held in Annecy in June, to share her experience and vision of the world.
The Burundian students, who arrived in September, will follow a three-year course. When this is completed, they will have the option of returning to their country to help in its reconstruction, or to pursue their careers in France or abroad.

« “I try to listen to what every child has to say.”. »
Maggy Barankitse

Moving towards replicating the project?

The project was born of a desire, shared by the Made In Institute and Ahimsa Fund, to extend a welcome to refugees. Like all of the projects supported by Ahimsa Fund, the aim in the long run is to replicate the project, so as to welcome refugees from other countries, at other universities. Ahimsa Fund would like to use this project as a full-scale test run that will serve, in the near future, as a model for other similar initiatives.

We would like to highlight the beautiful gesture and investment made by the host families that have offered a home to the ten young Burundian students of the Made In Institute. Ahimsa Fund will, of course, continue to provide support to each and every one, so as to ensure that this initiative is a real success. Maggy Barankitse continues to work with Ahimsa Fund from Rwanda, where she has founded Oasis of Peace, a free school whose mission is to welcome “anyone who comes bearing goodwill”.

And Maison Shalom will, of course, be represented, by Maggy Barankitse or Richard Nijimbere, at the next Ahimsa Fund Forum, to be held at Tony Meloto's Enchanted Farm in the Philippines in 2019.