Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You are Burundian, but have fled, recently. Why?
Aloys Habonimana: In 2015, Burundi is fallen and in a political crisis, when the president wanted to stay in power illegally; the opposition parties and civil organizations were against that.
I as a person who started to understand the importance of living free with dignity, and prosperity as human being, together with others, we went to the demonstration to protest against that bad decision of the president.
I was in the party called MSD (Movement of Solidarity and Democracy). Most of the members of my party were killed by the members of ruling party (Imbonerakure Youth of Ruling Party). Others from groups are in prison. Others were persecuted until they are living with disabilities all their life by police and the intelligence agencies.
I left my country when I was looked for by Imbonerakure. I am sure if they caught me I would be persecuted and even killed because my position was to mobilize the young people for new changes.
I was looked for by Immoderacies for two accusations:
- To participate in the demonstration
- To be in the opposition party (MSD)
- I left my country without finishing my studies. It touches my heart.
Jacobsen: What is your own family religious background?
Habonimana: I participated in many churches. I was born when my mother was an Adventist and my father had no religion. Then at the age of 7, I was Anglican. In 2000, my father and mother decided to return to the Catholic religion.
I was baptized in the Catholic religion. In 2004, I left the Catholic religion for the Pentecostal Church. After 2 years, I left this religion because of things I did not understand. I found another religion called Jehovah’s Witnesses for 7 years.
Afterward, I entered the Unitarian Universalists. My family is in Christianity.
I have so many backgrounds in different religions.
Jacobsen: How did you lose faith?
Habonimana: I was a true Catholic, even as I thought of being a parish Catholic, but afterward I saw that there are lies behind it. I had many questions about Jesus and mother Mary, but no Parish or Pastor answered me.
In the Protestant religion, I have seen that pastors are enriching themselves to the detriment of their faithful. I have noticed that pastors and ministers are hiding many things from their faithful.
Here I can quote:
- Not tell them the reality of life.
- Play with emotions of their faithful.
- Prohibit the use of scientific reason.
- Promote the religious discrimination.
- Put their faithful in exaggerated fear.
- In me extend family, we lost many people because of their religion which preached them, is not allowed by God to go to the hospital when they are sick.
- To prohibit their children not go to school instead of encouraging their children for the best future.
According to those things, when I was in those religions, my faith was lost; and now, I believe in human beings, which means that the human being has a power for creating a good thing and changing things.
That is why I want to work in humanitarian services for changing the lives of many people who are victims of their faith.
Jacobsen: What was the treatment by the community based on your loss of religious faith?
Habonimana: My native region is totally Christian. It is very difficult for me, even for my family. My family treated me as a bad child. I was even accused of being Satanist. None of my family and my friends understand me.
I was insulted in front of people. I remember that when I was in high school I was persecuted because I refused to go to Catholic church. I was in isolation. However, now because of my generosity, the kindness I show to the people; they start to understand me.
Jacobsen: What is your advice for those who have lost faith and who may experience mistreatment for it?
Habonimana: I advise them to be honest with themselves. It is not a fault to have different beliefs. It is in our duties. I can advise them to get in contact with other groups or associations of humanists who can help them to know their rights and their duties.
They have to be careful in their village because people can traumatize them, even kill them because of their beliefs. That is why it is better to be in an association known by the government and known by international organizations like IHEYO, for example.
Jacobsen: Any concluding thoughts or feelings in conclusion?
Habonimana: As a refugee, I am in a country where there are many people who do not understand me; it is hard to feel comfortable. Sometimes, I get discouraged. Normally, a humanist life is a good life when you are free and do not have the fear of insecurity because it gives freedom to think and do things according to the belief.
That is why we need your assistance morally and materially. It is awful to sleep when you want to work, to stay closed when you want to be free. Humanism taught me a great thing; I want to change the mind of people who believe that God will give them all things.
There are people who pray every day to seek food instead of working and to study how they can overcome their problems. I want to do that by a nonprofit organization. I have this inspiration because of the value of humanism.
I want to encourage my friends who are in the bad situation to be associated with other associations and contribute to change this world where there are so many lies.
I take this occasion to thank all associations of humanist and all movements for the work they are doing for supporting and promoting humanism in this world.
I am very hopeful together we can change the world.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Aloys.