Once upon a time…. 

St. Leo the Great Parish began with immigrants and refugees parishioners. 

This tradition continues as some of our recent parishioners are from Burundi, Africa, arriving a little over two years ago. Eight more families from Burundi recently arrived in our community this past month. To St. Leo’s growing list of nations, another fourteen families will be arriving within the month from the Democratic Republic of Congo, just east of Burundi. 

Questions always pop up: “Where is Burundi?” and now, “Where is Congo?” Why are they here? 

Maps explain more clearly from where our parishioners come. To the left of Burundi is the Congo, to the north, Rwanda, and to the east, Tanzania. Most of our Burundians are from “the 1972, group.”  In that year, an all Hutu organization organized and carried out systematic attacks on ethnic Tutsi with the declared intent of annihilating the whole group. 

The military regime responded with large-scale reprisals targeting Hutus. The total number of casualties was never established from these initial attacks in 1972, but estimates for the Tutsi genocide together with the Hutus’ deaths are said to exceed 100,000 at the very least. 

Our Burundians fled to refugee camps - settlements of tents, community cooking areas, inadequate facilities, and often with a scarcity of food. Some often moved from camp to camp as warring factions attacked the area. As a protection, our Burundians’ names are all different for protection of being “affiliated” to the “wrong” person. For 30 years our parishioners were under duress, and lived everyday just to survive. Political turmoil continued throughout the decades and still exists today. Two major genocides have taken place: the 1972 mass killings of Hutus by the Tutsi-dominated army from which our people were victims, and the 1993 mass killings of Tutsis by the Hutu populace.

Burundi is #25 on this map of Africa.