Baptists in Burundi have expressed grave concern as to the state of unrest in the East African country.
“We ask you to continue to pray for us because some have left their jobs, homes, and churches,” said Juvenal Nzosaba, general secretary of the Union of Baptist Churches in Burundi. “Many people do not have food. It is a major problem.”
The unrests began in late April after Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in elections originally scheduled for June 26. The announcement sparked protests by those opposed to Nkurunziza seeking a third term in office, leading to widespread demonstrations in the capital, Bujumbura.
Nzosaba told the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that more than 20 people have died, more than 100 were injured and about 600 have been arrested, among whom were children and youth participating in the protests. More than 100,000 have fled the country, while thousands more are internally displaced.
Nzosaba stated that the country’s Supreme Court declared Nkurunziza’s legitimacy to run for a third term, but opposition groups say the president’s actions jeopardize a peace deal that has kept ethnic tensions in check since the Burundian Civil War ended in 2005. Opponents assert that Nkurunziza is not constitutionally permitted to seek a third term in office.
A failed coup attempt occurred on May 13 while the president was in Kenya, at meetings to resolve the issues in his country.
“The government, NGOs, and others are telling Burundians to be calm and to look for peace so that they may enter the Election Day without obstacles,” Nzosaba said.
Burundi has some 50,000 Baptist members in approximately 300 churches affiliated with two BWA member organizations.
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© May21, 2015