Frontiers of Justice, Travelogue

Delwende in Burkina Faso

This summer, the 2008 Frontiers of Justice group travels to West Africa. The group will travel through Burkina Faso and Ghana from June 28 to July 13, 2008. Today’s entry in the the Frontiers of Justice travel log is by Melissa Livermore.

Melissa Livermore stands beside Ernest and Mother

Melissa Livermore stands beside Ernest and Mother at the Centre d’Accueil Delwende.

Delwende is a word in Moore, one of the major languages spoken in Burkina Faso, which can be loosely translated as “being in God’s care.”

Under the blistering sun and stifling heat the women of Centre d’Accueil Delwende of Tanghin-Ouagadougou (a refuge for women accused of witchcraft) solemnly get up from their work and proceed to the entrance. These women with their heads wrapped in brightly colored cloth stand in stark contrast to their orange-red surroundings to pay tribute to one of their companions who lost her life the day before. For her, this is her funeral, not the typical celebration of life with a feast that waits until all of your family is present even if it takes months. For her, an outcast of her village and family, she leaves her home surrounded by her new family, the one she found, the one that is provided by CRS and its partners. As we sat listening to Ernest Tidogo, the manager of the center, these women solemnly sent off one of their own. The only noise heard is that of the women whose job it is to cook the daily meal for the 412 women living in the center that day.

The women of the center have gone through a lot. They were accused of practicing witchcraft, often due to a death in the village that was attributed to them. They were shunned by their village and even by their family. Many traveled across the country of Burkina Faso by foot to come to this place of refuge. Without God, how would it be possible? It is a strength beyond compare.

Twenty years ago the women democratically voted for one among them to be their leader, whom they refer to as Mother. One can’t help but see God in her eyes. As she gently held my hand, we posed for a group picture. I was reminded of my own children. It was a grasp that radiated so much love and acceptance that it touched my soul.

We began our day in a very different setting, but one that also emanated love and hope. The Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Ouagadougou was finishing one mass as we arrived. I first noticed the masses of people inside as well as surrounding the large church. Just as that mass ended, we were led into the church by Suzanne Milougou, Administration Department Manager for CRS Burkina Faso. The pews were quickly filled by others joining us for the mass in Moore, one of the numerous languages of Burkina Faso. Even though we did not understand the language we were in communion with the congregation, eventually responded with “Amina” and moved to the beat of the drums and rhythmic singing.

After completing our visit to the Delwende center, we traveled to Manega to visit a cultural museum. There were learned much about the history of Burkina Faso and its people. We closed the day by visiting the Village Artisanal de

Today’s experiences reminded me of Matthew 25:40 “And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'” In Burkina Faso, CRS and its partners are answering God’s call in extraordinary ways.

Melissa Livermore

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