Faith leaders can play a crucial role before and after elections. As ambassadors for peace, they can heal the hurts that divide people and promote unity. In last year’s election in Burundi, faith leaders were a beacon of hope – showing communities what a peaceful election could look like.
‘Before the 2020 Burundi elections, we organised different workshops with faith leaders to equip and engage them to advocate for free, fair and peaceful elections,’ shares Désiré Majambere, who leads Tearfund’s work in Burundi.
‘Elections in Burundi have often been marred by violence. We wanted to show people there was another way.’
Lighting the way
After the Tearfund-run workshops, faith leaders took the message of peace into their communities. A prayer event was organised for the leaders and candidates of the political parties. Sermons on electoral participation and unity were crafted and delivered. Faith leaders even took to the radio so they could reach even more people.
Whole communities were discipled in peace and reconciliation. And it didn’t stop there. After the election, faith leaders continued to hold people together, and communities remained largely calm and peaceful.
Just the beginning
Tearfund recently invited the faith leaders back for another workshop so the leaders could share how it went, and be inspired to continue the conversation about peace within their communities.
‘It would be good if faith leaders from all over the world and their churches are actively involved in the electoral process: they have a role to play,’ shares Bishop Pontien Ribakare, who attended the training. ‘From my experience, I have realised that people have trust in churches and their leaders regarding peacebuilding. Messages of church leaders are well received, and when different religious denominations work together for the same cause, their message is really powerful.’
‘I believe that church leaders should be present in everyday life, engage and invest in the peaceful processes in their country,’ adds Rev Onesphore Ndayizigamiye. ‘They should not be afraid, but step up, because their role is very important.’