Refugee for Life

Innocent Magambi

Behind every person - behind every refugee - there is a specific story. There is no one blueprint of experiences that all refugees will go through, and for that reason, it is so important that individual stories are heard. Innocent Magambi has written a thoughtful and helpful memoir of his experiences as a refugee, living in 5 refugee camps across 4 different East African countries. Born in Congo, yet wanting to return to his homeland of Burundi, Innocent's flair for business and his value of education come through strongly, as does his courage to fight for the opportunity to pursue both, in order to benefit others.

This is not a neatly packaged linear account of Innocent's early life, as his journey was often interrupted by sudden twists and turns of government decisions, political instabilities, and family troubles. Innocent is honest about the struggles he faced, and the reader gets the impression that this is, indeed, the real Innocent Magambi. The extent to which the changeable political landscape directly affected his choices, and lack of them, is illuminating. This book is very much grounded in the reality of daily living within a specific place in a specific time. The detail of the horrors and loss of life resulting from political instability and tribal conflict are not left out, and the reader is painted a clear picture of this wider context.

Innocent's tenacity and faith, which are strengthened through his early experiences, are proven in the later chapters, as he outlines the challenging journey of setting up a humanitarian organisation. There is Hope provides support on a number of levels, helping to empower refugees to find their own solutions. Equally, the value of the work done by UNHCR is highlighted frequently, as Innocent praises the part they have played in his life, along with the sense of community he found within the church in different camps.

The final quarter of the book comprises 23 short 'Deeper Stories' where more detail is offered on aspects of Innocent's story, along with the stories of others. Well researched, this section is both revealing and didactic, with a specifically highlighted 'myth busting' comment at the end of many of the stories. Perhaps everyone should be encouraged to read this book, although it will particularly appeal to those who wish to gain more of a personal, in depth insight into the reality of life for forcibly displaced people. It is also a valuable tool for those yet to work with refugees, or who are new to such work, in terms of highlighting many aspects of their multifaceted reality.

Reviewed by Fiona Poulson

Having spent 8 years working to 2 churches as Director of Worship, Fiona Poulson is now a worshipping pilgrim, spending her days leading worship, training and teaching on worship and travelling to places to change atmospheres through worship. Her passions for worship and mission also converge in her role as a Local Trainer for Sounds of the Nations.