Praise God for relative stability in Burundi after the terrors of the 1990s, when ethnic and political violence saw 300,000 killed and the unrest of 2015. An elected government now includes both major ethnic groups (Hutu and Tutsi). Pray for genuine respect and cooperation as these two peoples build Burundi’s future together. Decades of violence and the scars of past atrocities are not overcome easily. Building peace is a painstaking process. The 2020 election saw a largely peaceful and successful transition of power from one President to the next - not to be taken for granted! Yet corruption remains a challenge in the country in general. Pray for change that lasts, which only the gospel can bring.
Praise God for stability, manifested through the signing of a peace accord by every rebel group, a new constitution and an elected government that represents both Hutu and Tutsi. After the horrors of this region of Africa in the 1990s, Burundi has made significant progress. Over 450,000 people once uprooted have now returned home. Most refugee camps have closed or are closing, and some IDP camps have become permanent. The current president is a professing born-again Christian.
The socio-political situation is one of cautious hope. There have been many encouragements, but threats to the fragile new peace remain. The final rebel group, the FNL, signed the peace accord only in 2008. Pray for these key issues:
- Decades-old enmity between Tutsi and Hutu that boiled into a violent eruption claiming 300,000 lives in the 1990s has simmered down with the peace accord and representational government. The systematic humiliation of Hutus has all but ceased, leading to a more peaceful co-existence. There is widespread intermarriage between these groups. Pray for genuine respect and cooperation as these two peoples build Burundi's future together.
- The surplus of firearms from decades of conflict contributes to the sudden rise of violent crime, especially armed robbery. With widespread poverty and no proper disarmament programme, such an occurrence was almost inevitable. Pray for the effectiveness of disarmament and gun amnesty programmes, many of which are run by church bodies; pray for people to hand in their weapons and pursue peace rather than lawlessness.
- Widespread corruption persists, with bribery all but requisite for transactions of almost any nature. Burundi ranked 165/180 in the Corruption Perception Index in 2020. The anti-corruption body has failed in its efforts to bring improvement. Pray for the lasting change only the gospel can bring.
Praise for sustained evangelical growth, although this now has slowed compared to the tumultuous 1990s. Nearly all Protestant and Anglican churches have seen significant growth, even during the periods of war. Many realize that nominal, shallow Christianity is inadequate to change lives and overcome the deep-seated tensions among ethnic groups. A number of groups in Burundi distinguish themselves by their admirably holistic approach to ministry.
True peace and reconciliation is something to work toward. Revival in the 1950s brought blessing and great church growth, but a generation later the land is physically, morally and spiritually devastated. Most Burundians recognize the Church as the only institution in the land able to bring true reconciliation and peace; this in turn can be achieved only through God's intervention. Pray that the spirits of enmity and vengeance may be bound by the power of Christ. Pray for the peace-building work of groups such as the National Council of Churches and its constituent members, of World Vision and World Relief, Tearfund, African Enterprise, the Alpha Course and many others.
Leadership for the churches is in short supply; violence caused the closure of Bible schools which in turn cut off the supply of trained leaders. Now, schools are being re-established and new ones opened, but poverty holds back many prospective students from enrolling. Ask the Lord for financial provision for those who wish to equip themselves for the Lord's service. Pray also for the following, all vital in meeting the urgent need for Christian leaders:
- Bible schools and theological colleges. These include the Mweya Theological Institute (Free Methodists and WGM), a Pentecostal Bible school, the Matana Institute (Anglican-MAM) and Partners Trust International.
- Christian universities, a new development in Burundi. Most notable are Hope Africa University (Free Methodists) and the University of Light (Anglican). These seek to provide higher education with a biblical worldview, shaping the future leaders of the nation.
- Modular training and TEE. Both Great Lakes Outreach and Great Lakes Leadership Training (Friends) offer the former, while several groups, including Mweya, CMS and the LM offer TEE programmes. Emmaus, a Brethren ministry, runs BCCs not just in Burundi but throughout the region.
Young people and children suffered the brunt of the violence, upheaval and poverty of the last decades. Lift these issues up in prayer:
- The physical needs of children. Around 560,000 children have lost at least one parent, 45% of children under five are undernourished and many thousands suffer from malaria and AIDS. Violence against children is common. Only half of children attend school; but praise God for debt relief, which allows the government to offer free primary education to all children. This should raise enrolment significantly. Pray for the many ministries and NGOs that focus on caring for children and providing them with life opportunities.
- Specific ministry to children has been almost non-existent, but some agencies are beginning to focus on this issue. CEF, SU, the Anglicans, and New Generation (a local NGO) are examples of such.
- Student and youth ministry. SU continues to have an effective ministry, especially in the area of evangelism. Seven growing GBU(IFES) groups now focus on evangelism and training leaders. YFC and the Alpha Course also have specific ministry to young people, the former developing Homes of Hope, where orphans from different ethnicities are raised together in a Christian setting.
There is a genuine need for expatriate Christian workers. Between 1970 and 1985, nearly all missionaries were expelled by the regime of that time; few returned thereafter due to ongoing instability. Many are needed to work with national leaders in areas of discipleship, theological education, reconciliation and trauma counselling, literacy and education and holistic development. Now, numbers of workers are increasing, but the large majority of these focus on Bujumbura, the capital. Pray for more workers for the neglected rural areas and for ministry that empowers Burundi believers rather than creates dependency. Pray for the calling of the right missionary personnel and their effectiveness, for godly modelling and good relationships with national believers.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.