Burundi – AIDS clinic

On 11 June 2010, an AIDS clinic named after a slain Canadian Jesuit was inaugurated in Bujumbura. The clinic for inpatient care expands the services offered by the Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM), a holistic AIDS ministry run by the Jesuit Region of Rwanda-Burundi, whose beneficiaries are mostly women and orphans. It is named after Fr Martin Royackers SJ, a Canadian Jesuit who was gunned down in 2001 at the door of his parish of St Theresa’s in Annotto Bay, Jamaica – his murder was never solved.

The inauguration of the Clinique Fr Martin Royackers SJ was a joyful ceremony, nearly all in Kirundi: a Eucharistic celebration, the cutting of the ribbon, a visit to the clinic, then speeches followed by lunch. Hundreds of beneficiaries of SYM celebrated alongside Mrs Jo Anna Royackers, the mother of Fr Martin, her daughter Mary-Ann Hendrikx and me.

Mrs Royackers said: “It was such a privilege to be there, to see the work being done, the dedication of the workers, the joyfulness of the people and the continuation of Martin’s name in a country he would have loved as much as his own – Jamaica.”

Other guests included the Regional Superior of Rwanda-Burundi, Fr Augustin Karekezi SJ, and Fr Paterne Mombé SJ, Director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN). The outgoing Director, Fr Michael Czerny SJ, unable to attend as he was recovering from a heart attack in Canada, sent a message.

The clinic expands the services offered by SYM to hundreds of people with HIV and orphans. SYM reaches inaccessible parishes in the rural hills around the capital of Burundi and offers comprehensive care: medical; psychosocial; nutritional; educational; micro-credit for income-generating activities. In April 2009, SYM qualified to be a centre for the provision of antiretroviral treatment, which necessitated the building of the clinic.