Rwanda-Burundi Region is the newest Region in the Jesuit order and it was established on 25th March 1999. Before then, the two countries were part of the Central African Province, which was comprised of three countries: Rwanda, Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Currently, the region counts more than 90 members with 65 of them still in formation.
The first Jesuits arrived in Rwanda in 1952 following repeated requests by the King of Rwanda Mutara III Rudahigwa. The Jesuits started a secondary school at Kabgayi which was then the headquarters of the Rwanda Vicariate.
But in 1955, the Belgian government, which ruled Rwanda and Burundi as a United Nations’ Trust Territory, obliged the Jesuits to move their school to Usumbura (today’s Bujumbura), then colonial capital of Rwanda-Burundi. It is here that the Jesuits founded “The Inter-racial College of Usumbura,” later known as “Lycée du Saint-Esprit”.
The Jesuits returned to Rwanda to establish a novitiate in Cyangugu (1966), Centre Christus spiritual centre in Kigali (1972), a social-cultural centre Urumuri (1980); and more recently, an academic complex comprising a primary (2008), a secondary (2012) and a nursery (2021) schools in Kigali.
During their time in Burundi, the Jesuits had soon realized that it was also necessary to found institutions of higher learning. In 1960, they founded two faculties: Humanities and Social and Economic Sciences. These Faculties have been later (1964) associated with the Official University of Bujumbura (now University of Burundi) for which a Belgian Jesuit priest was the first rector.
In addition to the education ministry, the Jesuits would also be involved in agricultural development projects at Kiriri, Vugizo, Gitega, as well as pastoral ministries for Kiriri, Mubimbi and Gitega.
Today, Jesuits in Burundi also run Service Yezu Mwiza, a Centre for the care of people living with HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. With Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), the Jesuits accompany and offer help to refugees and displaced persons in Burundi and from the surrounding countries.