Mariko is a 40-year-old husband and a father of 5 children. He’s from the Batwa community from Cibitoke, the northern part of Burundi.
For many years he felt like a second-class citizen. He felt unworthy of dignity and inferior to other people around him. “I questioned my manhood and my ability to provide for my family,” he said.
Mariko had worked as a labourer for his landowner for many years. He was given a piece of land about 5m². At the time, he only had two children and a wife. Even though what he had was barely enough, he was content with being able to provide for his family.
But things took a turn when the landowner started abusing him. He would make Mariko work for many hours and threaten to chase him out of his land. With five kids and nowhere else to go, Mariko had no option but to comply.
Mariko was a minister in his local church, but his family did not share his beliefs. His wife and kids told him that there wasn’t a god, and if there was one, he had indeed abandoned them. They felt there was no need to believe in a god who leaves his people to suffer.
Mariko was also on the verge of giving up, his body could no longer bear the pain and hardship, as his family was living in the worst conditions. They would go days without eating; the small hut he had built couldn’t hold the waters during the rainy season.
Whenever fellow believers wanted to visit him, Mariko would lie to them, telling them it was far away. In fact, it was nearby, but he was ashamed to show people where he lived.
When GLO partner Igniting Communities for Jesus (ICJ) came to the small village of Murwi, Mariko was among the first people to welcome them. “He didn’t put his needs first; he would always talk about his community and how we could help everybody else. When we visited his house and heard about his situation, my heart broke,” revealed Bosco, ICJ leader.
ICJ bought the plot from Mariko’s landowner and built a four-bedroom house that fit all the family. They also had to buy a more significant plot of land, so that Mariko could have a small farm, and also gave him a goat.
He now benefits from the 2 hectares farm, which helps 50 Batwa families; they had recently harvested over 3000 kgs worth of maize and beans, of which Mariko’s family received 44 kilos of maize and 12 kilos of beans.
His family also benefits from the ICJ health program – the family now has health insurance cards which give them access to treatment when they are sick. They are relieved that they no longer have to see his kids suffer from sickness as they get the medication for free.
“I’m now proud to see my family in the congregation while I’m preaching at church, I’m happy that they are following in my footsteps for following Christ” Said Mariko.
Mariko is no longer ashamed of who he is. He’s proud to be a servant of God and is delighted at his family’s transformation. As it says in Psalm 25, Mariko knows no one who trusts in God will ever be put to shame.
The work of Igniting Communities for Jesus has been instrumental in bringing hope and dignity, particularly amongst Batwa communities – some of the poorest and most marginalised in Burundi.