Prisons in Burundi have a serious problem of overcrowding. The number of detainees far exceeds the capacity of the prisons. It should be recalled that Burundian law, in this case the Burundian Code of Criminal Procedure and the Penal Code offers alternatives for decongesting prisons.
The political and security crisis that the country has been experiencing since 2015 has strongly generated prison overcrowding. The slowness in the processing of legal cases and the lack of enforcement of court decisions, have greatly contributed to prison overcrowding.
The figures recorded during the year 2020 show that in the prisons, there is a number of detainees which exceeds by more than three times the capacity of the prisons.
In view of this situation, the Burundian authorities is aware of the seriousness of the situation and make an effort to put an end to the recurrent human rights violations in the prison environment. It is in this context that the Traume Healing and reconciliation program launched its program under the recommendations of the 2018 external evaluations and got licence to implement TH activities within all prisons and juvenile centers. Strongly believing that when in touch with the approach, their lives would be impacted for good and help them to process their healing and become better persons in dealing with their trauma and once released to their beloved families the social integration within the family and community would be positive as the office of prisons managements has noticed that as many who are granted presidential pardon after awhile find themselves back in prisons.
BSB took hold of that opportunity and introduced a request to the Ministry of Justice to introduce trauma healing programs in prisons to assist with processing of traumas and preparations for those being released to handle challenges of integration into society. BSB received the approval in September 2021 to introduce TH activities in prisons nationwide, and held a convening session in 2022 which granted the full permission to introduce TH activities such as healing groups and equippings into prisons.
Seventy-two staff of the general penitentiary directorate in Burundi, did an initial equipping in trauma healing. “Initially we felt the approach was competing with other psychosocial approaches implied but we later credited TH approach as easy to imply and as head of cells will undergo the training too, this will help the few social services workers to attend to trauma issues withing the prisons” said one participant.
The Kirundi Study Bible is currently being written. This Bible was initiated by church leaders, after noticing the need for a tool that could enlighten Bible readers, the church leaders together with the Bible Society of Burundi decided to make this tool available to provide an answer to the need already expressed, by making available to readers a “Bible with study notes in Kirundi” based on the original biblical texts.
In addition, this Bible is going to facilitate the understanding of the Bible in churches, schools, universities and in the various Bible groups. This Study Bible also aims to equip pastors, evangelists, lay Christians who use the Bible in Kirundi, with a tool that will allow them to be able to understand the word of God in private (personally), in groups or in public for the strengthening of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Preliminary portions of this Study Bible have been distributed to all member churches of the Bible Society of Burundi and others in order to verify acceptability. Its first portion which included the books of Ruth, Jonah and Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians was distributed in 2019.
The second distribution comprising the five books of the Pentateuch namely: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and those of the New Testament namely: the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the Acts of the Apostles; are being distributed.
The first recipients are Church leaders working in Burundi, theological schools and those with a similar vocation, theologians, Pastors, and many others who have some knowledge of the Bible.
At the stage where we are, this Bible aims to test the acceptability of readers who are invited to give their appreciation and give feedback to the Bible Society of Burundi, to be able to better understand a global view of this Bible still in writing.
The ultimate goal of this Bible is to help the reader to understand the message that God has communicated through his word, in understanding difficult words, technical terms, proper names, historical, political or religious, geographical realities, fauna and flora, economic or artistic etc. With the availability of this Bible, we expect the change of behavior in Burundian society in accordance with Christian values, following the good understanding of the Holy Scriptures, the change in the way of teaching the Scriptures, and many others.
Adult literacy rate is the percentage of people ages 15 and above who can, with understanding, read and write a short, simple statement on their everyday life. According to World bank data, Burundi enlists 75% of adults literacy as per 2021 (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ADT.LITR.ZS?locations=BI) , and working towards achieving 100% of adult literacy by 2030 (SDGs).
The Bible Society of Burundi supports the Churches in Adult Literacy by providing them with materials and a program for literacy classes. The Bible Society of Burundi trains and equips the monitors who will then lead the Literacy courses in their respective Churches.
The Bible Society of Burundi uses “Buratamanzuye” Booklets which contain texts for learning from the Bible and texts based on daily life issues, such as agriculture and other life skills.
Currently, 16 classes are going on in Rutana at Rutana and Bukemba communes, 13 classes in Makamba province at Kayogora and Makamba communes, Classes are being held by 51 dedicated and certified volunteers.
Thanks to this project, illiterates in each church or locality implementing the project will be able to read the Bible fluently and thus come to interact with the word of God, and be able to read and write a short, simple statement on their everyday life.
Bible Society of Burundi (BSB) sought to introduce Trauma Healing approach at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreements signed on August 28, 2000, provided for, in the protocol relating to “the nature of the Burundian conflict, problems of genocide and exclusions and their solutions”, principles and measures to facilitate the end of serious human rights violations and international crimes, including the fight against impunity.
The establishment and operationalization of the TRC created under the Arusha Peace Accords (2000) is now operational since December 10, 2014, when its members were sworn in before the President of the Republic.
The missions of the TRC are among other things to investigate and establish the truth about the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, committed during the period of February 26, 1885, from the partitioning of Africa, to December 4, 2008, date of the end of the belligerence. The commission will take into account the seriousness and the systematic and collective nature of the violations. The investigations aim in particular to: elucidate the violations of major political, civil, economic and social rights; establish the responsibilities of individuals and of state institutions, legal persons and private groups; determine the nature, causes and extent of the above violations, including the antecedents, circumstances, factors, context, motives and prospects which led to these violations.
The TRC will propose a reparation program comprising both individual and collective measures, being material as well as moral and symbolic; and the establishment of a program of actions aimed at promoting forgiveness and reconciliation.
It is for this purpose the BSB, held a convening session with all the members of Truth and reconciliation Commission on November 21, 2022 to introduce the Trauma Healing approach to the commission, and seek their approval to be implimented in the achieving of their mission. The approach was approved, and further plannings are going on to train and certifiy its members in Trauma Healing classic (for adults).
Bible Society of Burundi in partnership with TRC will gain a vast sphere in healing the wounds of past crisis, thus acheiving its goal “A healed and reconciled Burundi.”