2020-10-30 GENERAL HOUSE

Memory of the Martyrs of Bugobe

On October 31st, 1996, four Marist Brothers were killed in the refugee camp of Bugobe. They were Brothers Servando Mayor, 44 years old, Miguel Ángel Isla, 53, Fernando de la Fuente, 53 and Julio Rodríguez, 40.

These four Brothers worked for more than a year in the refugee camps in Congo, on the border with Rwanda. The refugees had become “their real family”, their heart’s concern! On the 31st October 1996 all the refugees fled. The Brothers stayed to be ready to welcome them again on their return. In the evening of that day they were murdered.

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Historical Frame

The Marist presence in the refugee camp of Nyamirangwe goes back to 1994, following the terrible genocide of the preceding months, in which at least half of a million people were massacred. Many people from the Hutu tribe fled away towards R.D. Congo (ex Zaire) and settled there in different refugee camps. Six of our Brothers, from the same ethnic group, decided to help those refugees; they went to the refugee camp of Nyamirangwe, not far from Bukavu, Congo.

Brother Benito, Superior General, then, said: “The more I come to know about this project, the greater is my admiration of the Brothers who launched it. They had the intuition to create an education project in perfect harmony with the thrust of our last General Chapter.”

There were about 30,000 people in the camp, most of them simple peasants. The Red Cross were the managers of the camp; the Brothers cared for the education of some 4,000 pupils, for catechesis and youth ministry. These Rwandese Brothers lived in poor conditions; their presence was seen as having political connotations and therefore their life was at risk.

By September 1995 they were replaced by Brothers Servando Mayor and Miguel Ángel Isla. Brother Fernando de la Fuente arrived in February 1996 coming from Chile. The last to join the community was Brother Julio Rodríguez, who was working in Goma; it was on 12 June 1996. Poverty and violence were the daily share of the camp. The four new Brothers carried on the initiatives taken by the Rwandese Brothers. They were also caring for the sick and the elderly people; they provided extra food for 300 undernourished children, offered transport to the health centres and installed a mill that enabled families to get flour.

Four of them had given a positive answer to a mission that they knew was difficult. When they were there they became fully aware that their lives were in danger: “Now I am a great deal more aware of the situation in which I find myself. Sometimes a gnawing fear afflicts my conscience, as quick and fleeting flashes. But I know very well in whom I have put my confidence and I happily go to the refugee camp… This western world is not for me, there is too much abundance and here there is too much need; but here man is more human” (Br. Miguel Ángel).

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