By Amelia Fisher-Starzynski, Monaco July 25, 2017: As part of Peace and Sport’s ongoing efforts to use sport as a tool for peace around the world, the organisation is this year holding the 2017 Friendship Games in Bujumbura, Burundi from 11 to 13 August.
Organised in association with the National Olympic Committee of Burundi, the Friendship Games see a host of International Federations come together to drive change across the war-torn lands of the African Great Lakes region.
This year, they will mark the 12th anniversary of the end of the Burundian civil war, taking place in the same city as the ceasefire was agreed.
The Games will draw focus to the borderlands between Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the aim of bringing together youngsters from the three nations to promote inter-cultural dialogue and highlight the power sport can have in bringing conflicting nations together.
Twelve sports will be contested between athletes and young people from the three nations.
A host of Peace and Sport’s Champions for Peace will also attend, including French Paralympian Jean Baptiste Alaize, who was born in Burundi and suffered his leg amputation during the conflict.
The trip will be the second time Alaize has returned to the country since fleeing, and he will offer inspiration to Burundian children on how sport can bring them a better life.
Peace and Sport currently helps to support six sports centres within the Great African Lakes region, all of which help children to heal the rifts caused by civil war through the power of sport.
Peace and Sport founder, Joel Bouzou, said:
“Everyone at Peace and Sport is excited to join together with athletes, International Federations, and local children for the 2017 Friendship Games in Bujumbura, and we cannot wait to show how the power of sport can change people’s lives in the toughest of situations.
“Sport is a powerful tool for change, and it is through sport that we find inspiration to reach for something greater than ourselves.
At the Friendship Games this year, we hope to inspire the children of Burundi, Rwanda and DR Congo to reach for a greater future for themselves, just as was the case with Jean Baptiste Alaize, an athlete who experienced immense hardship but is now succeeding on a global stage.”
French Paralympian, Jean Baptiste Alaize, added:
“It will be a special moment for me, returning to Burundi after so many years and after having achieved so much since leaving. Like many of the children who we hope to inspire during the Friendship Games, I was once affected by conflict but I was able to use sport as a vehicle for a better life.
“As well as inspiring children, I also hope that the Friendship Games can help to show that unity is better than division, and that a strong dialogue between the three nations of the Great African Lakes region will help to drive social change and a more harmonious society for all. This is truly the power of sport.”