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Spanish Missions in Rwanda and Burundi

Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 1994

Ex-Belgian colonies, which gained their independence in 1962, Rwanda and Burundi together have a population of some 13 million people, although it has been calculated that more than a million have died since they were established as nations. The great majority of their inhabitants (nearly 90 percent) belong to the Hutu ethnic group, with the Tutsi being the next most important.

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It is the conflict between these two groups which has caused a bloody civil war, the first reporters of which were, specifically, the workers in the missions, as well as their helpers. They transmitted to the world, calmly but resoundingly, a tragedy which seemed far away to the big media, and even to international bodies and institutions, drawing their attention and encouraging the adoption of a range of measures to help the population.

This new frontier in communications opened up by the missionaries stationed in Rwanda and Burundi has been personified, to some extent, in the figure of the nun, Pilar Díez Espelosín, of the Congregation of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In radio broadcasts made in mid-April 1994, not only did she present a moving re-transmission of the tragedy, but also a faithful testimony to the work and the solidarity of the people working in the missions.

In their mission at Kibuye, right in the heart of Rwanda, about 150 kilometres from the capital, Kigali, they gave shelter to Tutsi refugees persecuted by the Hutu ethnic group, whom they protected at risk to their lives while they informed the world of what was happening at every moment.

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