Despite severe disruptions caused by ominous political clashes, TWR team members are striving to minister to Burundians.
Gospel programming continues to reach this small East African country from TWR’s shortwave transmitting station in Swaziland as well as over three local FM stations. The concern now for TWR Burundi is whether it will be able to keep up the production of new programs amid the turmoil. Listeners still call the TWR Burundi office in the capital, Bujumbura, and send text messages responding to broadcasts and asking for prayer.
“We are facing the most critical moment I have ever seen,” Rachel Muhorakeye, TWR Burundi national director, said of the crisis. “But we thank God because so far every one of my team is safe. Some staff had to move from their houses and go to another [area]. Some have to send children to another quarter or to neighboring countries where there is security.”
About two dozen people have died and many more injured in weeks of protests and an unsuccessful coup challenging the legality of the incumbent president’s decision to seek a third term. Many worry that the unrest could again spiral into the kind of interethnic violence that claimed more than 300,000 lives in Burundi. The Burundian Civil War, from 1993–2005, was a spark that flamed into genocide in neighboring Rwanda, where estimates say as many as a million people were killed during a 100-day period in 1994.
“We really need a miracle to happen and stop the situation,” said Egide Bandyatuyaga, TWR area director for East Africa. “My fear is that the longer the situation lasts, the worse and out of hand it becomes. Children in Bujumbura have not been able to go to school for the last four weeks, and this is very bad for their schooling.”
Earlier, Bandyatuyaga and his family left their neighborhood when the protests grew worse, but they have since returned. Muhorakeye said she lived in the same area but eventually moved to a much more expensive rented house so she can get to the TWR Burundi office and maintain minimal operations. On the way to the office from her old address she was stopped several times and threatened with having her car burned.
“I was amazed by the TWR Burundi staff and their commitment,” Muhorakeye said. “I mean, those who live in areas where there are not serious manifestations [of violence] have been coming in to the office for some hours, and they go back home quickly. Some have been coming on foot.”
Muhorakeye and Bandyatuyaga hope future broadcasts of the local ministry’s Twuzure na Bose (Peace and Reconciliation), begun in partnership with World Vision Burundi, will be able to address some of the sensitive issues arising from the crisis. Muhorakeye pointed out that funding for the program has expired, but Bandyatuyaga has learned from TWR sources in Europe who may be willing to provide new support.
Prayer for Burundi is fervently sought from believers around the world, both TWR leaders indicated as they cited specific needs.
“Thank you for standing and praying with us in Burundi for God to intervene,” Bandyatuyaga said.
Please pray for:
- Protection of TWR staff and their families in Burundi.
- Agreement among opposing sides that would lead to respect for human rights, an inclusive election and peace in the country so refugees in neighboring countries may return home.
- The weakened economy, which currently suffers price increases and shortages.
- Funding to produce new episodes of Peace and Reconciliation.
- Schools to reopen soon.
- A calming of ethnic tensions that threaten to turn neighbors against each other.
- Transformation of the hearts of Christians who flock to churches on Sunday but then fail to show restraint during political conflicts.