Marguerite Barankitse (born 1957) , is a Burundian humanitarian with a big heart and is a woman of exception A real feminine "Mandela", the person we call Maggy is giving her body and soul to ensure a future for her country.
Originating from Burundi, where the two ethnic tribes of Hutus and Tutsis live in proximity as in Rwanda. Marguerite Barankitse was born a Tutsi there in 1957. Her father died when she was 6 years old and her mother brought her up with her brother in joy and tolerance. Having become a teacher, Maggy battled with discrimination which reigned in the establishment between the two ethnic tribes, the Tutsis and Hutus. One day, a young girl who had been raped, thrown out of her home by her family and excluded from her school, came to see her. Maggy took her and her baby in and helped her get back to school. However this gesture caused Maggy, in turn, to be rejected and she lost her job as a teacher.
In 1993, Burundi was caught up in a terible civil war. After the assassination of the Republic's first democraticaly elected President Melchior N'Dadaye, Hutus and Tutsis wrought havoc with each and over 300 000 people were killed. Maggy was 36 years old when the civil war started and she was living near Ruyigi in the south east of the country, not far from the Tanzanian frontier where the rebels took refuge. She had already adopted seven children, a mix of Hutus and Tutsis. On the terrible day of 24 October 1993 the civilian population ran away. Maggy and her seven children took refuge in the Archbishop of Ruyigi's quarters. However, the rebels got in nad Maggy was forced to hide the children in cupboards in the sanctuary of the church. Seventy two people were killed, the invading Tutsis wanted to kill her as she had saved the enemy's children, however, Maggy being Tutsi, no one wanted to kill their sister.
In order to kill her, they sent in some young Hutus who were not from the region and didn't know her. Thinking that she was a nun, the hutus approached the church and as soon as Maggy saw them she said " Sister Maggy has already gone". The brutes stripped her naked and attached her to a post and started beating her in order for her to tell where she had hidden the children, and Maggy replied "I'd rather die than tell you where they are". However in a country where food was scarce and the young killers were hungry she through them off by telling them where they could find hidden food. They untied her and one of them gave her a tee shirt. Maggy now had twenty five children and took them a friend's home, a german aid worker. She was recuperating more and more children. She created, with the help of a few others, a non government organisation, called the House of Shalom.
The children had heard the word shalom on the radio, shalom means peace and hence the reason why the adopted this as the name they would use. Since the terrible events of 1993, Maggy and her team have saved and educated over than 20 000 children. Since then orphans from families destroyed by Aids have added to her work and her little association continues to doits job. Under Maggy's leadership they have created the City of Angels to recuperate children from all backgrounds. She has set up an education system to ensure that, when ready, the children are prepared to take control of their lives and not depend upon assistance from others. In 2003 with the help of, french film director, Thierry Nutchey, the Cinema of Angels in order for the children to learn about the rest of the world. Today the house of Shalom is part of the House of Angels (angels in hommage of all the children that died and whose spirits watch over those left alive). She created, with the help of young people from the University of Marne la Vallée (France), the angels workshop to supply computers for the young of Ruyigi. Maggy has continued to work to ensure that inter-ethnic hatred does not destroy her country.
130 Angel's homes have been created in the various regions of Burundi. Certain of the children that she has saved, once grown up and having returned to their regions start Angel's homes. Nothing stops Marguerite Barankitse, she doesn't tire. She has received various disitinctions: The prize for the Rights of Man, Nobel prize for children (World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child ), Prize for solidarity, Prize for the defense of deplaced persons, the North South prize, the Four Freedoms award and is honorary doctor of the University of Louvain-la-Neuve. The Nansen Refugee Award.
The honours and international recognition have served as fuel in helping her bring her country into the 21st Century. Her greatest joy is that these hutus and tutsis live together.
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