The Episcopal Church of Burundi has strengthened its close ties with Coventry diocese in the UK through the visit of a peace and reconciliation delegation from the diocese's cathedral.
The Cathedral Church of Holy Trinity in Bujumbura - Burundi's capital - received the delegation from Coventry's Community of the Cross of Nails earlier this month. The community is Coventry Cathedral's international ministry of peace and reconciliation. The delegation from the UK was led by the Revd Canon Justin Welby.
The Revd Canon Paul Ntukamazina, the Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral said on the occasion, "We feel so encouraged to be part of such a big Christian Family through this Community of the Cross of Nails. This visit has been a great blessing to us all."
Canon Justin presented a cross of nails to Holy Trinity from the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Colin Bennetts, and the Cathedral's Dean, the Very Revd John Irvine.
Canon Justin said, "The Community of the Cross of Nails will be greatly enriched by a partnership with this Cathedral. Your courage amidst suffering inspires and challenges us to pray and to help where we can." The community has more than 200 centres in 60 countries, each working for reconciliation in their own communities.
The Cross of Nails is a symbol of faith and hope in a God who reconciles, loves, and forgives. The original was made from three 14th Century nails found in the charred ruins of Coventry Cathedral after it was destroyed in a 1940 air raid during World War II. The then-provost, Richard Howard promised 'Our enemies will become our friends.' The Community of the Cross of Nails facilitates partnership that enables each participating community to contribute from its own experiences its pain, its hopes, its own insights into conflict, and its own dynamic for reconciliation.
Burundi is a small landlocked country bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 11 years of civil war in Burundi have seen the death of some 300,000 people and the displacement of 800,000 as refugees to these neighbouring countries, particularly Tanzania.
As a result of negotiations between the different groups and political parties involving leaders such as Nelson Mandela and the intervention of the African Union there is hope that very soon the crisis will come to an end. The period of transition is due to finish at the end of October 2004 when the process of electing a new president and government should take place.
There are at least 625,000 Anglicans in Burundi out of an estimated population of just over six million. An Anglican presence was established through the work of the Church Mission Society (CMS) in the 1930s and grew rapidly as a result of the East African Revival. The first national Bishop was consecrated in 1965 and Buye diocese was created covering the whole country. The province now consists of five dioceses. In 1975 Buye diocese was divided into two and Bujumbura diocese was created. The Episcopal Church of Burundi has existed as a province since 1992.