SPRING, 2002: Volume 7, Issue 1
Unlocking Horns: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Burundi
David Niyonzima and Lon Fendall
David Niyonzima, superintendent (legal representative) of Burundi Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, is currently working on a graduate degree in counseling at George Fox University in Newberg Oregon.
Lon Fendall is dean of undergratuate studies at George Fox University and chair of the advisory committee of the Great Lakes School of Theology, located in Burund Yearly Meeting.
These Friends, whose life-long concern for Burundi and the work of God in the midst of its suffering have cooperated in a helpful account of the tragic violence in the country and of signs of hope in the midst of that tragedy. Written for the people of Burundi—the book will soon be translated into Kirundi, the language of Burundi—“Unlocking Horns” ministers also to the people of the United States, who have come to understand the tragedy of violence more deeply this year.
Much of the form of the book is a dialogue, traditional in Burundi, between David Niyonzima and a young Friend in Burundi, Emmauel Ndikumana. Witness to God’s work in Burundi’s political and church history, past and present, is well articulated along with moving accounts of David Niyonzima’s personal spiritual journey.
The quotations chosen for each chapter illumine the power of forgiveness in trauma, healing and reconciliation. “Forgiveness means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin, but it is a loss that liberates the victim.” (Desmond Tutu) “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” (CS Lewis) “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet shed on the heel that has crushed it.” (Mark Twain).
The title of the book, “Unlocking Horns” refers to a Burundian saying “Ntazibana zidaku-bitana amahembe” meaning “The cows that live together will lock their horns.” Cows in Burundi are the traditional signs of wealth and status. They have very large heavy horns and when they enter the narrow gate to their pen they must turn their necks and as they join other cows inside, their horns inevitably became locked. “The cattle did not fight because the place was usually too small for that. What the owner would hear before the cows lay down to sleep would be the sound of the locking and unlocking of their horns.”
One sign of hope articulated by David Niyonzima is in the historical cooperation between the several Christian denominations in Burundi. Another sign of hope is in the peace education curriculum being offered by Friends schools which is being adopted by government schools.
I found this book to be a blessing.
Rosa Packard, NYYM Representative to Friends Peace Teams Coordinating Committee.