Despite a high-profile assassination and an attack on a human-rights activist in Burundi, the director of TWR’s national partner chooses to focus on signs of hope in the African nation.
TWR Burundi Director Rachel Muhorakeye was on her way to church Aug. 2, 2015, when she was turned back and had to attend another church. Very close to where she had been, attackers with rocket launchers and machine guns had killed Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana, a top aide to the re-elected president. The next day, an activist who had opposed the president’s candidacy, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was seriously wounded by gunmen.
At the same time, however, there have been a number of positive developments since April, when unrest began to sweep the East African country, Muhorakeye said. Among these developments is the continuation of Christian broadcasts calling for reconciliation.
“We have seen God’s hand in many ways. Actually, we have a lot to thank God for, and this is because of your prayer,” she said, referring to calls among TWR supporters and international staff for intercessory prayer.
Perhaps most significant is the fact that frightening rumors and predictions have failed to materialize. This is a tremendous relief in a country that has seen genocide and war claim hundreds of thousands of lives.
President Pierre Nkurunziza was re-elected in a controversial but relatively peaceful vote in July, and many of the political protests have died down, the director said. Many of the roughly 180,000 people who fled the unrest to neighboring countries have begun returning, and Muhorakeye’s children were able to take their final exams after schools finally reopened.
“God has kept the TWR staff in his unfailing arms,” she added. “We are all safe. We have resumed the former schedule of work.”
The program sponsored by the Christian Initiatives Partnership, which comprises TWR Burundi and other cooperating ministries, continues to air on three FM stations and one TV channel. Messages of reconciliation and civic responsibility are emphasized on the program.
The national crisis isn’t over, though. Muhorakeye said that she frequently hears gunshots at night and that police and demonstrators sometimes clash. Cars are burned in the capital of Bujumbura, and cases of torture have been reported.
The simmering tensions could be felt in a Sunday, Aug. 9, incident that occurred as the director drove to church with two colleagues, who are facilitators affiliated with the American Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Institute. They encountered a huge crowd of demonstrators wearing black in mourning for Gen. Nshimirimana and had to wait an hour for the road to be cleared. But then the car broke down, and many of the people surrounded the three women, offering advice on their predicament.
Muhorakeye described the experience as traumatizing – fittingly, considering the work the women were engaged in.
“Dear friends around the world, I believe God can change our situation through your prayers!” Keep us in your prayers and live everything unto His faithful hand, and God will do the rest! What human beings cannot do, God does.”
Caption: Burundi refugees draw water supplies at a camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by Abel Kavanagh/U.N./CC license 2.0)