Twelve years after Burundi’s brutal civil war, which resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 people, the country’s faith leaders have called on the international community to “re-establish good diplomatic relationships” with their government. The call came in a communiqué signed by the Anglican Primate of Burundi, Archbishop Martin Nyaboho and the Bishop of Bujumbura, Eraste Bigirimana, alongside 18 other faith leaders. It was issued after two days of talks in Arusha, in neighbouring Tanzania, on sustaining peace in Burundi, sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the UN Office on Genocide Protection and the Responsibility to Protect.
The talks brought together leaders from the Roman Catholic Church, the National Council of Churches of Burundi, the Council of Union of Christian Churches, the Islamic Community of Burundi, the Confederation of Churches and Revival of Burundi and the Seventh-day Adventist Church to “examine the current situation in Burundi, as well as the role of religious leaders” in the country “in contributing to enhance peace, security and reconciliation.”
In their communiqué, the religious leaders express their gratitude to the Burundian government and other organisations, including the UNHCR, for contributing to the return of refugees; as well as efforts to protect refugee’s property in the country. And they say that they recognise and value the “ongoing attempts to consolidate peace in Burundi by neighbouring countries, the region and the international community.”
But they say that they are “conscious of the urgent need to contribute to peace, security, stability, reconciliation and unity in order to prevent the risk of ethnicization or the conflict and escalation of violence along identity lines”.
The religious leaders say that they are “convinced that there is no plan to commit genocide in Burundi” and they call on their own government to “continue to consolidate peace and reconciliation” in the country. They call on “the international community and the Government of Burundi to re-establish good diplomatic relationships” and they urge “the international community to enhance assistance to development as well as to refugees and returnees.”
For themselves, the religious leaders say that they will work together to “multiply our efforts to consolidate peace and reconciliation in Burundi on the principles and values of the Holy Scriptures” and to organise “inclusive interfaith prayer sessions for peace and reconciliation.”
They also say that they will hold a “peace and reconciliation workshop” early next year to “discuss and validate the 2016-2020 Strategic Action Plan for Peace and Reconciliation in Burundi as a contribution of Burundian religious leaders”.
They also ask the Burundian government to “continue to pursue the path of national peace, security, reconciliation, inclusive dialogue and social cohesion; and to establish the conditions for free fair and transparent elections in 2020” and for the people of Burundi to “discard rumours and lies, and remain peaceful and united.”
They ask the international community to provide assistance for the 2020 general election and “to accompany the Burundian nation on the path of development, peace and reconciliation.”
International groups such as the World Council of Churches, Christian Aid, the ACT-Alliance, as well as Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, are urged to be “ambassadors of Burundian religious leaders” and to “accompany and support” them “in their efforts for peace and reconciliation” in the country.