Burundi, a nation in crisis, receiving Jewish assistance

January 28, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Philip Feinstein has visited the camps in some of the countries in which Burundian refugees are taking shelter: Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.

Philip Feinstein makes a friend in Burundi

After meeting many Burundian refugees in Sydney, Philip Feinstein learned of the difficulties that these people have in their own country – there is a huge conflict resulting in hundreds of thousands of people escaping the violence. In 1994 there was conflict in Rwanda between the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s resulting in a huge genocide. Once again it is the same battlefield. The Genocide Museum in Kigali depicts that catastrophe as well as others that have happened in the past, like the Holocaust in Germany and Pol Pot in Cambodia.

Yad Vashem helped in the design and construction of the Kigali Genocide Museum.

Philip then visited the camps in some of the countries where Burundian refugees are taking shelter: Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. As always, lots of musical instruments were brought for the refugees. Philip also brought laptop computers, solar lights, educational books and thousands of pencils for the kids. Being refugees, there is very little schooling happening for their children.

Having been to Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre hundreds of times before, Feinstein said: “I feel qualified enough to recognise how much tougher the Burundian refugees have it. They sleep 5/6 people to a room. And no prepared food like in Villawood.” There are no toilets or kitchens – all amenities are far away and shared. There are no lawns or roads other than sand tracks. “The worst thing is lack of water. The people have to walk large distances and then carry it back. And it is very rough terrain.”

Israeli and Burundi flags

Philip Feinstein has contacted some Israeli companies who specialise in water supplies for assistance. He has also written to Benjamin Netanyahu about the problem. In his letter to him, he pointed out that the Burundi leaders in 1948 were the first to recognise Israel as a state. Furthermore, their flag is the only one besides Israel that has Magen David displayed – they believe that the Shield of David protects them.

This flag created a problem for Iran because when the leaders of the two countries met in April 2013, the then leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had previously asked then President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, to remove “the Jewish Stars” and to replace them with 5-sided stars. When this was refused, the Iranians audaciously and covertly changed them anyway.

“My mission at the start was to get people involved with music. But as my journey progressed I realised that my function would grow. And it did, with both positives and negatives” said Feinstein. He was introduced to a couple of amazing bands. And coming from Africa, he knew the amazing music that Africans can make. (He had to leave South Africa in 1972 when Apartheid was happening) “After seeing these great bands playing live, I made contact with a fantastic radio station in Byron Bay who is now playing their music” he added.

On the medical side, there is only one doctor per 40,000 people. Furthermore, many of the medical equipment and supplies are old. They desperately need help in this area.
One of the medical centres in a camp had an unusual way of showing people where the footpath was: It was lined with Heineken beer bottles to direct people to the medical centre. Feinstein intends to congratulate Heineken on allowing their bottles to show the way. He will then suggest to them that they can be of real value if they pay for a floor inside the medical centre. Currently, it is just loose sand.

Back in Australia Philip is now faced with the task of looking for educational books, medical supplies and other necessities including donated watering systems. But getting these items shipped to East Africa will become another issue.

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