‘Whenever there is an election in Burundi there is a crisis… people have fear whenever they think of elections,’ says Reverend Sylvestre Bizimana, the General Secretary at the National Council of Churches in Burundi.
The last time Burundi held a presidential election was in 2015. There were countless protests and tensions were rife across different ethnic communities. At least 70 people died. The country is now in the midst of a new election season; on Monday the polls open to elect a new president.
Violence is rising again. But there is hope that things could play out differently this time.
The powerful message of peace
In February, Tearfund ran a workshop for faith leaders from across Burundi. They were invited to take part in training on how to promote peace before, during and after the elections.
Faith leaders can play a vital role during election times – they are a trusted voice in their communities. Around 90 per cent of people in Burundi are Christians.
Reverend Bizimana took part in the workshop. ‘This training was very fruitful and wonderful for me,’ he says. ‘The Bible says that we are the salt and light of the world… It is very important for us to preach peace, to behave peacefully and transform our members as peace makers.’
'Every time we have elections in Burundi, unfortunately there is violence. Many people lose hope for the future because their loved ones have been killed or they’ve lost their homes,’ says Desire Majambere, who leads Tearfund’s work in Burundi.
‘We have created spaces for church leaders to gather and discuss what could be done. I was amazed to see – for the first time in Burundi – the most influential faith leaders, including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Muslim, sitting together to engage on what actions could be taken to maintain peace. We thank God that he enabled us to organise this work.’
The faith leaders who attended this workshop are now sharing what they’ve learned with their own networks and running events in their communities. The message is spreading. Hope is on the move.
- Praise God that faith leaders in Burundi have come together to share a message of peace. Pray that this message will reach even the most marginalised in the run up to the election.
- Pray there will be no outbreaks of violence before, during or after the election, that people will be able to vote without fear and the result will be respected.
- Lift up other countries that will be electing new leaders over the next few months. Pray they will be able to hold elections safely and peacefully. And pray that whoever is elected will lead fairly and seek to help the most vulnerable in society.