Appointed by the Provincial of West Africa in accordance with the Regional Superior of Rwanda-Burundi Region, Fr. Desiré Yamuremye is now the new Director of the Centre Culturel Loyola (CCL) and Centre Espérance Loyola (CEL), in Lome, Togo. A Jesuit from Burundi, Fr. Desiré was ordained ten years ago and has served at several capacities. For those who know him very well, he is known as the Founder and first Director of Yezu Mwiza- a well-known Centre in Burundi, committed in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Burundi. Fr. Desiré’s voice of reason has echoed in the ears of many in Burundi when he served as a Member of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as well as Speaker and Commissioner of Communication and Public Relations. Many Commissions in the Ministry of Health in Burundi are familiar with his efforts to write proposals submitted at the Global Fund to support AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis activities in Burundi.
With a history of conflict and war in Burundi, not that would stop Fr. Desiré to quench his thirst for knowledge! A first Master’s Degree in Sociology was not enough! Certainly, not even his second Master of Arts Degree in Moral Theology which he was recently awarded in Roma. “…the knowledge I have gained especially on neuroethics has shed light on various issues of identities and reconciliation in Burundi” said Fr. Desiré on importance of his second Master’s Degree.
Interacting with young adults at the Centre Culturel Loyola (CCL) through sport and music, he says, is a great tool to communicate HIV prevention messages amongst the youth in Lome, Togo. “It is also a great platform to spread the message of peace and reconciliation especially because conflict, war and HIV are inseparable” said Fr. Desiré. With his direction, he hopes to advocate for the dignity and right of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) and orphans and access to health care for fullness of life. “…health care is not only about medical care but also psychological and moral care against stigma in the community especially in the Church” said Fr. Desiré.
As he takes up leadership role at Centre Culturel Loyola (CCL) and Centre Espérance Loyola (CEL), one thing that will not escape his mind is the need to work with young people and the need for Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV. “We have to focus our HIV prevention messages and strategies to young people as a key population when dealing with HIV and AIDS” said Fr. Desiré. He strongly believes that doing so, would protect a future generation which is free from HIV.
Fr. Desiré foresees donor fatigue and the need to come up with innovative solutions and strategies to address HIV and AIDS as challenges that lies ahead. “I come from Burundi. I also anticipate cultural challenges but I hope to take every step as opportunity” said Fr. Desiré.
During his tenure, Fr. Desiré hopes to bring about the spirit of innovation and dynamism and hopes to connect Centre Culture Loyola (CCL) and Centre Espérance Loyola (CEL) as social apostolate of the Society of Jesus in Lome, Togo. “…My dream is to make these two centers a model of collaboration between Jesuits and lay people just like the kingdom of God, where Faith, Charity and Hope abide” said Fr. Desiré.
Taking every new day as a new call of Jesus Christ in His Church, His Word, and the Society of Jesus is what motivates Fr. Desiré every day. He sees each new day as a new call to make the difference and try to achieve the content of Matthew 25 ‘The Parable of the Ten Virgins.’
As we concluded the interview, Fr. Desiré noted that perhaps, AJAN needed to rebrand to African Jesuit AIDS and Health Network (AJAHN) since Jesuits in Africa continue to play a greater role not only on HIV and AIDS but in the entire field on Health. He left us with Kirundi proverb to think about: “…amagara aruta amajana…” translated as “…Health is important than money.”