Deo's Promise To The Children of Burundi
Born in 1967 in Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi, Deo Mbituyimana found himself caught in the middle of a raging conflict between two rival tribal cultures. His mother was a Tutsi Rwandan citizen and his father was a Hutu Burundian. Hutus and Tutsi tribes had been battling for decades and children born into mixed families like Deo had an even harder time being accepted in this culture.
Deo first became a refugee when his father was killed during the brutal genocide in 1972. He fled to Rwanda where he lived for five years with his grandparents. Soon after his arrival, violence erupted in Rwanda and Deo's life was again threatened by terrible ethnic persecution. Once, he spent several terrifying weeks locked inside a church hiding from the brutal violence and massacres that plagued the land.
When Deo returned to Burundi he found that the children he played with didn't know or care about their differences or their tribal origins. They played together as brothers and sisters and accepted each other as equals.
After completing his high school and college education in Bujumbura, he enrolled in a Clinical Psychology Degree program at the University of Burundi. Deo was always a leader at college and university and active as an advocate for social change and tolerance.
Ethnic violence flared up again in 1993, and before he could complete his degree, Deo again became a refugee. He fled the city and spent weeks in a desperate search to find refuge from the horrific genocidal ethnic conflicts that followed.
By escaping the brutality of the civil war, his life had been saved, but it was theatened again when howling winds and treacherous waves on Lake Tanganyika threatened to capsize his small ecape boat. Starvation was his next challenge. He survived by trading with the people who lived along the lake shores, exchanging his shoes and clothing for food.
Deo finally found safe haven in Zambia. He resumed his university education and completed his degree at the University of Zambia School of Humanities, majoring in Sociology. He liked Zambia and discovered that the Zambians were very accommodating and friendly to foreigners. He was married there and his wife gave birth to their son, Angelo.
While in Zambia, Deo spent much of his time advocating for asylum seekers who were imprisoned in Lusaka. These refugees had no criminal records but were jailed while they waited to be granted legal refugee status. He knew that these asylum seekers didn't deserve to be imprisoned and treated like criminals. They needed care, compassion and support. This motivated him into action.
Deo worked tirelessly with Christian churches and other humanitarian organizations on behalf of these unfortunate souls. The Jesuits Refugees Service, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the United Nations Development Program and FONCABA, a Belgian charity that sponsors African refugee children, were all groups that Deo volunteered with while in Zambia.
Deo and his family were finally granted permanent resident status by the Canadian Immigration department in 2002. When he finally arrived in Calgary, Alberta he encountered a new set of challenges in trying to integrate into Canadian society and in being accepted as a professional.
In 2005, Deo decided to become a teacher. He first worked for the Calgary Board of education as a Special Education Teaching Assistant and then went back to school to complete his Master of Education degree at the University of Calgary. He is now a full time teacher in Calgary, Alberta.
"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." - Proverbs 22:9