Marguerite Barankitse is an award-winning humanitarian. She is also a refugee.
Known as the “Angel of Burundi”, Barankitse has helped to nurture more than 30,000 children that passed through the doors of her orphanage between 1990 and 1994 during Burundi’s bloody civil war between Hutu and Tutsi tribesmen. For these heroic feats, Barankitse was awarded the first-ever Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity in April of 2015.
More than two decades later, Burundi has once again been subsumed by conflict. Barankitse is a refugee living in a camp on the Rwandan boarder where her work continues, now with the million dollar support from the Aurora Prize. Global Daily sat down with Barankitse to learn about the center she’s built for Burundian refugees – the Oasis of Peace – and how supporting education, psychological care for war-torn children, and dancing can promote peacebuilding and restore the lives of 500,000 refugees who want to go home.
The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity. The Aurora Prize one million dollar prize is awarded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and supported by humanitarians including actor George Clooney and the late Elie Wiesel.
Global Daily: What does the Oasis of Peace center bring to your fellow refugees?
They can come restore the memories of those who are suffering. We hope that one day we can return to our country with hope. We want to love, we want to be able to break this cycle of violence. To show them that we have a little light in the darkness. To have a center where children can sing, dance, and play; we really want to restore their lives.
Global Daily: In the face of so much destruction, what keeps you going every single day?
I want to create hope. I will never have hatred in my heart; nobody can stop love.
Global Daily: Has the Aurora Prize brought you more hope? What has it meant to your life?
When I received the Prize, it was a light; a response from God. When my community found out that we won the prize they danced. This was for all of the Burundi refugees, including those who were in Tanzania and Uganda. It’s a light of consolation because the world, the Armenian people, they are sharing our suffering. This is a symbol for mankind that we are one human family. Now I know that I can continue.
Nobody can stop love
Global Daily: What is key for peacebuilding and addressing the escalating refugee crisis?
If we want to make peace one day, we must first focus our activities on young people between 20-25 years old; they are more vulnerable. They can be recruited to take up weapons, to become prostitutes. What’s really important is to send these young people back to university. If we want peace for the future, we must focus on education. These young people are the future who will light up Burundi when we return home.
Know a humanitarian who stands #WithRefugees? Nominate those heroes for the $1.1 mil Aurora Prize today: https://auroraprize.com/en/prize/detail/nominatenow.