Dear brothers in Christ, Christ is Risen!
It is a great joy and honor for me to communicate with you in order to make you participants in the work which is being performed, by the Grace of God, with the blessing and love of His Beatitude Theodore II, Patriarch and Pope of Alexandria and All Africa, and of course, with your own contribution and support, material as well as spiritual.
I have been offering my ministry to the Holy Diocese of Burundi and Rwanda for about 15 months now. Our primary concern is the further improvement of the way the local Church is organized and the appeal to the people who want to learn more about her and enter into the bosom of Orthodoxy.
As you already know, in the capital city of Burundi, Bujumbura, there are some churches operating, such as the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos at the city center and St Arsenios Holy Church in the industrial area, while St Demetrios Holy Church at Tsarama district is still incomplete and is used for catechism.
BuramataAbout two hours distance from Bujumbura lies the Orthodox parish of Buramata, whose residents are war refugees. As it is easily understood, the region has huge lacks and needs, the most immediate being the people’s need for evangelism, fighting hunger, provision of better education and health care and configuration of the social environment. It is in these fields that we are taking action. More specifically:
CatechismAfter a three-month-catechesis, more than 600 catechumens have been added to the Orthodox Church, while 120 couples had a religious wedding after their baptism. The number of catechumens is increasing on a daily basis.
ΕducationIn September, the beginning of the school year, we conducted the Blessing of Water service, distributed stationery items to the pupils and bought bicycles for the teaching staff members who live away from school, which is attended by about 600 schoolchildren, boys and girls.
ΗealthOn each one of our visits, we distribute medicines to all those who need them. Also, we contribute actively, within our capabilities, to poverty alleviation in cases of natural disasters.
Social environmentWe offered a considerable -for our meagre finances- amount of money to several Orthodox and not only cooperatives, such as the bread-making co-operative and the rice farming ones.
Confronting povertyWe are implementing a feeding program which includes providing a meal (rice and beans) on a daily basis, not only to the school children but also to the teaching staff. As far as I know, all the members of the Orthodox Church of Buramata are pleased with our contribution by 80% to their survival.
RwandaToday, there are more than 100 people who have already been baptized, while another 3,000 are catechized every Saturday and Sunday after the morning prayer. There are already 15 parishes operating under the supervision of the catechists.
The Divine Liturgy is only conducted once a month because there is no local priest; therefore, a priest from Burundi is responsible for serving the Divine Liturgy here in Rwanda.
With the blessing of our Patriarch, we have sent to our Orthodox Ecclesiastical School “Makarios III” in Nairobi, Kenya, two young men from Rwanda so that they can study Theology and enter priesthood. Actually, the one was ordained priest a few days ago.
We maintain excellent relations with the authorities of Rwanda. In fact, they seem to care about the way our Church is organized. The communities where Orthodoxy has a strong presence are the regions of Kaziba, Rwabatanzi, Kigali and Nyamata.
The mayors of all the provinces invite us and ask for catechetical centers to be created, however, there is no infrastructure for the realization of their wish, at least for the time being, due to our inability to buy the land required for the erection of churches.
We are currently designing a new education system for young men and women, in cooperation with the mayors of several regions. We also operate the Sunday school, which is intended for children, after the Divine Liturgy.
Moreover, I would like to let you know that according to the law in Rwanda, I could not take any action without being a permanent resident of this country. As a result, I had to rent a house myself. We need to have a permanent home, by buying either a site in order to build a house, or a ready-made one. The purchase of a site is about 30.000-35,000€ while that of a ready-made house comes to 70.000-100,000 €.
On closing my letter, I would like to remind you of a few other problems, too, several of which already existed, and some new ones, which have arisen on the way, such as erection of churches in Rwanda, creation of a polyclinic and of places of assembly, fundraising for scholarships for destitute students and also erection of a Middle School in Buramata.
Finally, if I am not being too demanding or annoying, we need some money for buying items that concern the hygiene of the young women and schoolgirls, who miss classes at school during the difficult days of the month.
Bishop Innocentios of Burundi and Rwanda