November 18, 2015
In recent months, the world’s attention has been increasingly focused on the growing immigrant crisis in Europe. As millions pour into the continent, nations scramble to comprehend and respond to the situation. But far from the Middle East and Europe, another nation is facing a breaking point – the small eastern African state of Burundi.
In May of this year, President Pierre Nkurunziza made a controversial announcement that he was running for a third term in office. Opponents quickly pounced, calling the move unconstitutional. As protests emerged across the country, Nkurunziza travelled to Tanzania for an emergency meeting to address the issue. While he was there, one of his generals issued a statement dismissing the president and announcing a coup against him.
Demonstrations turned violent and the upcoming election was seen as invalid by many while the coup against the president quickly failed. Within a week, over 100,000 Burundians fled the country into Rwanda and Tanzania as President Nkurunziza rounded up his conspirators. While the conflict seems like just another in a long line of African crises, many analysts fear Burundi is powder keg as political pressure mounts. If history repeats itself, the results could be catastrophic.
Like neighboring Rwanda, the Hutu and Tutsi people groups make up the majority population in Burundi. Many historians believe the two groups migrated into the African Great Lakes region roughly 3,000 years ago as part of a movement called the Bantu expansion.
The physical and cultural distinctions between the two groups are nuanced at best, with some analysts questioning whether they should even be considered separate nations. Despite this, the political differences are vast. It’s believed that decades of colonization by Germany and Belgium have led to more pronounced differences between the people than what really exist.
Their shared history has led to tensions between Hutus and Tutsis and ongoing civil war through the decades. In Rwanda, the conflict boiled over into mass genocide in 1994. Up to one million people were murdered, 70% of whom were Tutsi. To protect against further violence, Rwandan officials stopped recognizing any distinction between the two people groups. But Burundi, often seen as Rwanda’s twin, still does.
Violence continues to escalate, leading many to fear that Rwanda’s genocide will repeat itself in Burundi’s current conflict. As governments debate the best way to respond and assist, one thing is clear. The people need Jesus.
So, how can Christians respond?
Pray. We serve the God who puts leaders on their thrones and replaces them at his will. Pray for peace and resolution to Burundi’s political turmoil. Ask God to mobilize Christians in the region. Pray for reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi families.
Give. e3 Partners works alongside national partners in Burundi to spread the Gospel and address the needs of the people. Your donation of any amount to the Burundi Country Fund allows us to continue that work. Click here to learn more.
Go. If God is laying the Hutu and Tutsi people on your heart, you can go and serve them on an upcoming expedition to the region. Click here to learn more.