Simon Ntamwana (foto: Heidi Øyma)Erkebiskop av Gitega (Burundi).

Født i Rugari (bispedømmet Muyinga) i Burundi den 3. juni 1946. Tilhører hutufolket.

Presteviet den 24. mars 1974. Utnevnt til biskop av Bujumbura den 14. november 1988, og bispeviet den 5. februar 1989. Pave Johannes Paul II besøkte Burundi og Bujumbura i september 1990. Utnevnt til erkebiskop av Gitega den 24. januar 1997, noen måneder etter at forgjengeren, erkebiskop Joachim Ruhuna, ble myrdet. Innsatt i embede som erkebiskop den 22. mars 1997.

Formann for Burundis katolske bispekonferanse siden 12. desember 1997.

Intervju med erkebiskop Simon Ntamwana 1999:

ABANDONMENT OF AFRICA IS "WILLFUL ABSENCE" OF FIRST WORLD COUNTRIES: Archbishop Simon Ntamwana, President of the Burundian Bishops' Conference

ROME, SEP 9, 1999 (ZENIT).- During the recent Ad Limina visit of the Bishops from Burundi to Rome, the Fides news agency interviewed Archbishop Simon Ntamwana of Gitega and President of the Burundian Bishops' Conference, regarding the situation of his country, the African Great Lakes region, and especially the weak points of the Arusha peace talks which will begin again on September 13.

What are the major cases of the people's problems?

ARCHBISHOP SIMON NTAMWANA: The population suffers most because of the war: they are trapped between army and rebels cross-fire. The people wanted peace, they were ready to forego all violence, but the fresh outbreak of fighting has stirred up animosity once again. The second cause of difficulty is the collapse of the economy: the big merchants export most of the country's sugar, beans and rice to obtain precious foreign currency, leaving the people with nothing to eat. A third problem is health: when you are poor, you cannot afford health-care. Then there is the scourge of AIDS: Burundi is one of the worst hit countries. But first and foremost there is the problem of reconciliation, which must be faced psychologically, socially, religiously and politically.

What do the people need most?

ARCHBISHOP NTAMWANA: First of all the fighting must be stopped. We are moving towards a social implosion, generalized violence as in 1993-94. We suffer from the absence of western cooperation: there is a block on all the most needed products. The government has no money to import medicines and other necessities. This situation is unfair. Perhaps were are considered to be the country most to blame in the whole of Africa; but in other countries too there is violence, war, and yet there is cooperation. Why do the great powers refuse us access to cooperation? Why do the European Union, the World Monetary Fund, the World Bank refuse to help our country? This is a situation of injustice and a voice must be raised.

Can Congo, Rwanda and Burundi reach peace individually or must it be a regional peace?

ARCHBISHOP NTAMWANA: The whole region is affected by a common disease: ethnic centrism, which has been exploited for power. The remedy must be common. We have numerous different armed groups which move from one country to another. These must also find answers to their demands, or peace will never be lasting. Unless peace is for the whole region, it will not be proper peace. The war in the Great Lakes region is due to the presence of armed groups but war is a problem all over the continent: see for example Sudan, Angola, Zaire.

Who is to blame?

ARCHBISHOP NTAMWANA: The blame must be put first of all on those who produce and supply weapons. We do not produce them. The "big" ones make them available because it is in their interest. The economic and political powers of the world see the Great Lakes region as a most interesting field for political and economic maneuvers in their favor. Think for example of the riches of former Zaire. There, the fight is over mineral resources in which neighboring countries think they have something to say. Then there is the religious analysis. In many dioceses in Rwanda, Burundi and Congo, Catholics are more than 50% of the population. These are the three most Catholic countries in Africa. The aim behind these wars, is to destabilize the presence of the Church, to do harm, eliminating a moral barrier which works for reconciliation. The United States of America is mainly responsible: it is a fact that the U.S. is here among us. The path of these conflict seems to be directed precisely by the United States. It is clear. They came in to defend those who had been struck by genocide but now it is clear they have other interests. Then there is the responsibility of omission. The European Union has withdrawn from the area. France was in the front line, but now that Paris has withdrawn, the European countries have lost interest in Africa: they close their embassies, leaving only their Consulates. Cuts in cooperation have left Africa an abandoned continent. Willful absence is a responsibility.

Who wants to weaken the Church in the area?

ARCHBISHOP NTAMWANA: In Burundi, religious sects are a growing reality. There is a real invasion. Many of them are financed from the United States. They start in the U.S. and then spread across the world, destabilizing political situations. They are not invading Burundi for the sake of it: their intention is to destabilize the Church and social order. They propose a sort of religious liberalism and pluralism accompanied by neo-liberalism of the economy and cultural globalization. I have no proof that these are different aspects of the same project, but these processes coincide and the danger is blatant.

Are you confident about the Arusha talks which will resume on September 13?

ARCHBISHOP NTAMWANA: The steps being taken are positive. Although negotiations are not going as quickly as hoped, I am still confident that peace will be built through dialogue. But the absence of the two main armed groups and the fact that no cease-fire has been reached, would seem to be a threat to the success of talks. For the past two months there has been violent fighting in Bujumbura and in the surrounding area. These are negative signs for Arusha. I am disappointed that the Church has been excluded from the talks. There is neither fundamental nor political ethics in the talks. This is saddening. What can come from sides so divided? The Church could have offered a contribution of unity and reconciliation, reminding those involved that politics must always be a service.

What is the situation of the Church in Burundi?

ARCHBISHOP NTAMWANA: The Church is struggling through the present crisis with a new identity. But I must say I pity the many Christians who have given way to violence. Some of the intellectuals who provoked the massacres have had a Catholic education: they planned and perpetrated violence and some continue on this path. This is a black mark on the history of the Church in Burundi. Whereas the Bishops' Conference has reinforced communion and made every effort to guide the people in crisis. The clergy and Religious listened to the voice of their Bishop and continued to seek to proclaim first of all the Kingdom of God. We have succeeded in bringing our people to reject violence. There has been a flourishing of reconciliation groups which teach how to forgive and live in peace with all, Catholic Action groups, particularly, have been sources of charity.

We are about to enter the third millennium. What is the mission of the Church in Africa?

ARCHBISHOP NTAMWANA: Our mission is to inculturate the message of the Gospel, to make it part of day-to-day living. We must help our communities to compare their lives with the Word of God and to take a look at the situation of justice, which in our country and indeed all over Africa, has been marginalized. The Church has a prophetic role to proclaim the brotherhood of the Gospel as a antidote to the hatred of ethnic centrism.


av Webmaster publisert 01.01.2004, sist endret 13.10.2011 - 15:08