September 22, 2016 | Grace Carson
PINEVILLE-La. “I wish to see not a Hutu or a Tutsi, but a Burundian,” said Lievin Manisha, Louisiana College sophomore and refugee from Burundi, Africa.
On April 21, Manisha challenged his peers to go out and make an impact in a world that needs Christian leaders during an event hosted by the CORPS, a Louisiana College club.
Caitlin Sellers, the CORPS president, wants the organization to serve LC students and the rest of the community in practical ways. Sellers hoped this event would give Manisha opportunities to continue speaking and sharing his mission in the community.
Marvin Jones, who received his doctorate from the University of South Africa, began the event by describing the history of Christianity on the African continent. Then, with some African history under their belts, students welcomed Manisha, who added his personal experiences to the story.
Sophomore Rachel Reese was in the audience because Manisha made an impression on her a few months earlier.
“He was just so thankful to be here at LC and he left a good impact on me, on my life,” said Reese.
“I just wanted to come here to support him, and hear more about his story and about what it’s like where he comes from in Africa.”
A Night of Awareness: the unheard voice of Burundi, was the theme of the event. Manisha said it is recorded that 5000 people were murdered a day in Rwanda, but in Burundi it was the same. The difference, he said, is few people talk about Burundi.
Manisha said he is amazed that while students learn about WWII and the Holocaust, they know nothing about the genocide that killed 2 million people in a year.
Manisha said tribal wars have been a reality in central Africa since colonization. He is from the Tutsi tribe that makes up 13% of the population. The Tutsi were historically privileged because they were thought to be taller, with lighter skin and longer noses. The Tutsi owned and ruled the land, and the Hutu majority were an oppressed people.
Even as a child, Manisha said he saw this oppression was unfair, and in 2005, when a rebellion leader of the Hutu tribe named Pierre Nkurunziza won Burundi’s first election since 1994, Manisha hoped he would be the change that brought peace to Burundi.
“But he was a dream to be broken,” said Manisha. “Since when he came into power, he wanted to stay. When he came into power he wanted to repeat history again. This man learned history in order to repeat history and become more radical.”
Manisha said now President Nkurunziza is ruling in an illegal, third term, something Hutu and Tutsi came together to fight in 2015.
Despite the growing persecution of Christians in Burundi and violence against the Tutsi, President Nkurunziza calls himself a born-again Christian. Manisha said the president believes he has been elected by the Lord and is untouchable.
Manisha asked the audience how they bring the gospel to a woman who has been raped, someone who has been tortured, or starved; suffering is something Manisha knows well.
“I remember back in the days it took me a long time to believe in Christ because I had seen this stuff,” said Manisha. “I had no trust in the Lord. These people are losing trust in the Lord.”
Manisha’s family was murdered in the genocide when he was six, and he said he nurtured bitterness and hatred in his heart.
“‘I wish to grow in a day so I can take a gun and revenge myself.’ That is how I felt at that time,” said Manisha.
Manisha was kidnapped and forced to be a child soldier when he was 12; he refused to talk about the things he was involved in, but said he is amazed by how God saved him.
“The Lord worked with me,” said Manisha. “He showed me not in reading, but he walked with me and he showed me through experiences. I lived things I was not supposed to live at my age. I guess that revelation came at the right time,” said Manisha of his salvation.
Manisha said, with no trust in Christianity, Africans are turning to Islam. Persecution against Christians is common and gaining momentum. Manisha explained why Christians must care about other Christians, saying we are all a part of the body of Christ.
He said, “If the finger is hurt, the leg might not feel it much, but it will have an impact.”
Manisha challenged Christians at LC saying, “Why did we become Christians if we can not change the struggles that we face? We need to stand in faith, and we need to use this gift that is given to us to make sure that the glory of the Lord is proclaimed.”
Reese said Manisha’s speech was eye-opening, and she plans to take his words to heart.
“The biggest thing that made an impact on me was what he went through and how it impacted him,” said Reese. “How what people intended for evil God has turned to good, and how he’s run with it and how he’s used it here in America to bless us.”
Reese expressed what everyone seemed to feel as they silently listened to Manisha’s talk.
“We won’t just stay in our bubble here,” said Reese. “We will search to see what is actually going on in those countries.”
Believing that another genocide is on the horizon in Burundi, Manisha thinks he may have been called and prepared for “such a time as this.”
“This is a call that I cannot deny,” said Manisha. “It is burning in my heart. In my country, genocide is about to happen again, and the only thing I can do is use my mouth—talk about it. I know how horrible genocide is, and this is why I can’t keep quiet.”
Manisha said he is grateful God brought him to LC. He said Louisiana College teaches students that they can use their faith in each and every part of life, no matter their career.
The CORPS launched a fundraiser for international missions, and many students committed to pray for Burundi. Manisha continues to do what he can for the country he hopes to one day return to.
“Personal experiences push me to stand here,” said Manisha. “I wish to see my country at peace.”
Louisiana College Convergence Media online magazine