Vigils held for Burundi as African Union warns of genocide

[Anglican Communion News Service] Coventry Cathedral was set to take part in a vigil for Burundi Dec. 18 as the African Union warned of an impending genocide in the east African country. And staff at the Anglican Communion Office in London also paused to pray for peace for the troubled country.

There has been increasing violence over the past few months and an attempted coup following the decision by President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek re-election for an unprecedented third term – an election that he won.

Earlier this month a boy was killed and two people injured during an attack on St. Mark’s Church in the Ngagara district of the capital Bujumbura. He was one of several hundred to have been killed since the violence began. Friday of last week saw the deadliest day of the violence with about 100 killed in clashes.

Responding to the recent upturn in violence, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urged “all actors in the current crisis, including political leaders and state authorities at the highest level, to take every step possible to stop this deadly escalation and engage in a meaningful and inclusive dialogue.” He warned: “With this latest series of bloody events, the country seems to have taken a new step towards outright civil war and tensions are now at bursting point in Bujumbura.”

The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council has been discussing the situation in Burundi and agreed on the text of a communique. The text will be released later, but in a series of tweets from the meeting, the AU said that “Africa will NOT allow another Genocide to take place on its soil.”

The tweets said that the AU Peace and Security Council members were “exchanging views on the situation in Burundi” and discussing “the urgent need for action to stop the killings.” They were also discussing contingency plans for the possible deployment of African Union peacekeeping troops to the country.

Coventry is home to the largest community of Burundian people in the U.K. They were set to join with the city’s faith and community leaders for a peace vigil on Dec. 18 to raise awareness of the recent struggles in the country.

“In the last two weeks, political unrest has resulted in the death of over 100 Burundians as Politicians struggle to find a way to stop the country sliding in to civil war,” the Coventry Burundian Community’s vice-chair, Lise Ndiyo, said. “Coventry welcomes refugees and stands for peace and reconciliation, and we’re hoping this peace vigil will raise the profile of what is happening there as we all come together as a multi-cultural community.

The canon for reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral, the Rev. Canon Sarah Hills, said, “The struggles of the people in Burundi have been in our thoughts and prayers for a number of years. We, at the cathedral, will be standing side-by-side with the Burundian Community showing our support and praying for peace.”

In September, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion called on “Christians of all denominations to pray fervently for Burundi.”

In a statement issued after receiving reports from the situation in Burundi at that time, the Standing Committee members called on “those in leadership to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable ahead of their own interests.”

They added: “We call on the UN, the African Union and the East African Community to renew all possible efforts to support peace . . . and we call on the leaders in Burundi earnestly to seek peace and pursue it and especially to call the various political leaders to resume immediately serious and inclusive dialogue.

“Reconciliation is always a demanding process, but bears fruit in saved lives and stable communities. May Burundi be blessed with leadership that brings true and generous reconciliation!”

The vigil begins with a march from the city’s council offices to University Square, outside the cathedral from 4 p.m., and a vigil from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Rev. Canon Phil Groves, director of the Continuing Indaba program for the Anglican Communion, has invited staff at the ACO to gather for prayer in the chapel of St. Andrew’s House.

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