College student writes book about surviving genocide
PINEVILLE, La. (AP) — Lievin Manisha was 6 years old when he watched as his family and neighbors were beaten, raped and beheaded. He became an orphan and lived in a refugee camp until he was kidnapped, tortured and nearly killed at the age of 12.
Manisha, a 31-year-old activist and student at Louisiana College in Pineville, is from Burundi. In 1993, thousands in the East African country died, including Manisha’s parents and siblings, and many more were displaced during a genocide in a report by the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi.
Manisha moved to Louisiana in 2014 after missionaries he met in South Africa helped him to apply to colleges in the United States. He writes about his life and personal journey of faith, and forgiveness, in his new book “From Genocide to Jesus,” which was released on Amazon.
Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world. The 2018 World Happiness Report ranked it as the world’s least happy country.
“One purpose of writing the book is to spread awareness that everything (in Burundi) is not OK,” Manisha said.
Manisha is a senior majoring in public administration. He sees it as a degree that will allow him to impact his country, which he said has been plagued by corrupt leadership.
“I took this major hoping and praying really to one day go back and help contribute to my country,” he said. ” . I was 6 years old when all this happened, but today, we’re still having those kinds of issues going on.”
Manisha decided to write a book for several reasons, including helping to spread awareness about ongoing conflict in his country, where media reports estimate 1,000 have people have died and 400,000 have fled since 2015.
“Genocide might not be in the form that it was in 1993, but they’re doing it systematically,” he said.
In his book, Manisha describes Oct. 21, 1993 as the day the situation in Burundi forever changed his life. He was eating breakfast, after spending the night hiding under banana tree leaves, when Hutus attacked his Tutsi family and neighbors.
In Burundi and neighboring Rwanda, Hutus and Tutsis are the two main ethnic groups. In addition to Burundi, extremist Hutus carried out genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, where 800,000 people were killed in 1994.
Manisha and other Tutsi spent years living in refugee camps in Burundi where he said the government was able to offer protection from attacks occurring in more remote areas. During a time he went outside the camp, Manisha was kidnapped by rebels who were under orders to kill Tutsi. To this day, he doesn’t know why he was kept alive.
“You see (in the book) how God has been with me and protected me through my childhood,” Manisha said.
Manisha left Burundi when he was around 15, joining other refugees about 2,000 miles away in Johannesburg, South Africa. He lived on the streets, eventually connecting with a Christian organization that helped him apply to high school.
After high school, Manisha lived in Upington, South Africa where he came across members of Louisiana State University’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry. They were handing out pamphlets about Christianity and invited him to church.
“I can tell that God really specifically directed this team to me,” he said. “I remember my friends were there, but no one really was interested in speaking to these people. I don’t know how, but I just got interested.”
Manisha accepted their invitation to church, and the group introduced him to a pair of missionaries who taught him about the Bible. He started leading Bible studies for refugees and became a Christian, which he said changed his heart towards those who killed his family.
″(Before), I always had the passion of going to school to maybe get somewhere in politics and be able to (get revenge),” he said.
Although his motivation is different now, Manisha remains interested in being involved politically so that he can impact his country. He completed an internship at the United Nations headquarters in New York this past summer and has been interviewed about his activism by media in Africa.
“It wasn’t like ‘Oh, wow, I got in America; I’ve got my life here, so who cares?’” Manisha said. “I remain more concerned, more involved with my country and the refugees. That’s something you cannot separate for me.”
“I will be happy only if I see a change happen in my country so that we won’t have kids who go through the same things I’ve gone through,” he added.
Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com