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​Mother of ten thousand children

· ​The testimony ·

Born in a family of the Tutsi minority, in 1994 Margherite Barankitse founded in her country Burundi, decimated by civil war, the Maison Shalom, a home that was from then on to shelter more than 10,000 children of every race and religion, victims of the war, poverty and aids. We met her a few years ago, when she came to Italy to present her book Madre di diecimila figli (Piemme 2007) written with Christel Martin. It focuses on children, each with their own story of suffering and unexpected smiles. They are all equally victims of hatred and violence, the little ones do not constitute a homogeneous group: some have seen their relatives being massacred, others, the children of the slaughterers, bear the burden of the barbarity of their parents; then there are child-soldiers, sick children and raped children. Maggy refuses to define Maison Shalom as an orphanage, an anonymous institution that does not care for the children’s future and that in Burundi – being managed through Western funding – creates in the children false and foreign needs. Instead, Maggy is convinced that what a child deprived of parents misses most is the family: recreating and rebuilding this bond, restoring the dignity of belonging are thus her main objectives. If in the Maison Shalom the diversity of the children becomes a value it is because each one also sees, beyond his or her own suffering, the pain of others: the comparison helps them to grow mutually. Listening to the pain of a child from the tribe that exterminated your own family is a help in overcoming hatred; and in enabling a generation of forgiveness to develop. (@GiuliGaleotti)

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