In Burundi, Feba's partners 'continue to stick our necks out' by broadcasting Christian ministry in areas where ethnic and political tensions reach into - and even emanate from - churches.

 

Since the end of 2015 when 87 people were reportedly killed by soldiers, satellite images of suspected mass graves revealed and, weeks later, grenade attacks on Bujumbura's business district buildings, the African Union has struggled to intervene with a solution to the troubles.

Our partners recognise that Christians are among those hurting and seeking revenge from years of oppression and conflict stretching back to the civil war in 1993 that claimed around 300,000 lives, and which today finds people deeply polarised following the presidential re-election in July 2015.

But in a country where radio stations have been closed or burned down, Great Lakes Outreach (GLO) is producing and broadcasting Abakunzi b'Amahoro, programmes on forgiveness and non-violence through three FM stations that have remained open. They are seen as a neutral and trusted voice.

Our partners recognise that Christians are among those hurting and seeking revenge from years of oppression and conflict stretching back to the civil war in 1993

With a population of 10 million people and among the poorest nations in the world, more than 250,000 fled Burundi to neighbouring countries after the elections. Partly fuelling the fear of another civil war are church leaders who speak of 'prophesies' that an imminent bloodbath is God's judgement on Burundi, and that people should stop praying for peace and standing against God's will. Messages from the church that war and violence are inevitable and where neighbours are vilified have contributed to new crisis points.

Discerning between true and false prophesies

The Abakunzi b'Amahoro programmes are helping people to see their neighbours as fellow humans. Broadcasts are heard as a politically neutral voice speaking from an alternative position that insists on non-violence to sort political differences. This approach is becoming increasingly popular with listeners. GLO reports that throughout the conflicts people have contacted the stations, particularly after one programme, broadcast multiple times, that helped people to discern between true and false prophesies. Our partners are sent testimonies of how people are trying to live 'blameless lives' in the midst of the turmoil. Other listeners hear, and say they are edified by the testimonies.

 

"I truly like the programs of Abakunzi b'Amahoro. I need your prayer. During this unrest, I was mistreated by the policeman. I am still bitter to them." As our partner said: "Some people are definitely still alive today who, without seeing or listening to our TV or radio programmes, would have made destructive choices and ended up dead."

Some people are definitely still alive today who, without seeing or listening to our TV or radio programmes, would have made destructive choices and ended up dead

"GLO has shown the biblical stand on prayer, and Christians and non-Christians have understood. They have written to us thanking God for the clear understanding - or ask us for further explanations."

A listener contacted the partner from the north of Burundi, saying: "My uncles always try to take our land that our parents left us as a heritance. I have decided to look for poison to kill them. But after listening to the program, Abakunzi b'Amahoro, I decided to leave out the plan. Now I will go to seek justice. I would just want to ask you to pray for me so that God will be my lawyer."

With fears and challenges created by dissenting and opposing political viewpoints and ethnic rivalries in the country, the situation is still precarious; but our partner reports that 'we continue to stick our necks out'. People are slowly returning from refugee camps - and prayers are again being said in Burundi, tentatively optimistic for empty churches to gradually fill again.


Read more on Feba's use of media for peace and reconciliation


Published: Monday 8th February 2016