By ACNS staff based on information from the Anglican Alliance*
The Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi is preparing to assist people displaced by violence and insecurity due to the ongoing political crisis in the country.
Unrest began last month with President Nkurunziza’s announcement that he intended to run for a third term of office, a re-election bid which his opponents say violates the constitution. At least 20 civilians have since died in clashes with police during mass demonstrations.
The security situation has continued to deteriorate in the wake of the failed military coup on 13 May and the death of Zedi Feruzi, opposition leader of the Union for Peace and Development (UPD) party on Saturday.
Many people have fled their home in fear of the “Imbonerakure” youth militia who are faithful to the President’s party. The opposition coalition has accused the government of targeting its leaders for arrest and detention, forced disappearance, torture and inhumane treatment of demonstrators, UNHCR said. Many opposition leaders have gone into hiding. Nearly all privately-operated media have been forced to shut down.
Nearly 90,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries since April 2015, according to UNHCR, while a significant number have sought refuge with friends or family in other towns or provinces.
Those fleeing the insecurity and violence are living in dire conditions and lack food, water, sanitation and health services, clothing and shelter, Leonidas Niyongabo, Provincial Development Officer of the Anglican Church of Burundi, reported to the Anglican Alliance. With the closure of universities and secondary schools, students are particular vulnerable.
Many people are stranded at Burundi’s borders, unable to cross into neighboring countries due to administrative obstacles.
“Urgent intervention is very much needed,” he said.
The Church has created emergency committees in ten of its parishes to assist as the security situation permits. A rapid needs assessment will be carried out to determine how best to respond, particularly to give support to children and women.
“Most humanitarian organizations are leaving the country, which adds to the urgency,” Niyongabo said.
Response in neighbouring countries
Anglican churches in neighbouring countries also are responding to the crisis, assisting Burundian refugees arriving in their dioceses. Nearly 10,000 Burundians have crossed into the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and nearly 47,000 have sought refuge in Tanzania, according to UNHCR.
The Diocese of Bukavu in the Province of the Anglican Church of Congo (Province de l'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo) is seeking to assist 150 refugee families, in total 600 people, who are living either in church buildings or with host families, the Anglican Alliance reports.
The Diocese of Western Tanganyika in the Anglican Church of Tanzania reports a new influx of Burundian refugees. The diocese has been donating food and non-food items to way stations for refugees families on their journey to the Nyarugusu refugee camp.
Request for prayer
On behalf of the Anglican Church of Burundi, Niyongabo thanked the Anglican Communion for its support for people in crisis and requested further prayer.
“We ask you to continue to pray for the country and for all the people of Burundi. May the hand of God continue to work so that God's righteousness, peace, and unity prevail in Burundi,” he said.
*This news story is based on information from the Anglican Alliance which is working closely with the Relief Department of the Anglican Church of Burundi.
Information on how to support the response of Anglican churches to people displaced by the crisis in Burundi will be available shortly from the Anglican Alliance. Please visit the Anglican Alliance website for further updates on the situation in Burundi and neighbouring countries.
Share prayers for Burundi on the Prayer Wall of the Anglican Communion website.