For more than 7 million Africans forced to flee their warfare-stricken homelands, “home” has become a refugee camp where many wait year after year in hopes of a better life.
Bamurange and Esther are two such women who survived the Great African War, one of numerous conflicts that have plagued the continent. Braving nearly two decades in separate refugee camps, they now have settled in Arizona, safe from the conflict that claimed an estimated 2 million lives and displaced 2 million from their homes.
Bamurange (pronounced Bahm-a-rahng-gay) left her Congo homeland in 1998 and spent 19 years in a refugee camp in Rwanda. Esther fled the Congolese upheaval the same year and spent 16 years in a refugee camp in Uganda.
In the organized chaos of these refugee camps, people are constantly moving in and out. Food supplies usually run low. And stress is ever-present from such challenges as finding a tent-like covering from the rain; sharing a bathroom with the masses; sleeping on the floor; showering once a week with water brought in by trucks.
Such camps are great “levelers,” a step up from the ravages of war, bringing together those from high social status with those of lifelong deprivation.
The community copes by organizing according to their gifts. Some are teachers; others know how to cook; doctors, few in number, treat people’s ills as best they can.
Bamurange Nyirakinyaruka fled Congolese strife when she was just 16. One night, a terrible fight broke out and every relative on both sides of her family was killed, with Bamurange crediting God for His providence in protecting her that night.
“I survived by hiding in the bush and in the river,” she says of evading opposing tribesmen for many nights in the bush.
“With water up to my chin, I would dip under the water and hold my breath when the men came to the water’s edge looking for survivors” she says. “I was so afraid. By the grace of God, I was able to flee.”
A man who once befriended her family hid Bamurange in a large basket, covered her with leaves and took her to town. He guided his donkey cart right up to trucks belonging to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the authorities took her in.
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Source: Baptist Press