Recognized as Rwanda's "twin," Burundi is a small, mountainous, African country bordered by Tanzania on the southeast and Rwanda to the north. Over 400 years of conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes have left the nation highly in debt and heavily dependent on foreign aid, and nearly 200,000 refugees have fled to Tanzania. An estimated 150,000 to 300,000 people were killed in the country's 1972 and 1994 genocides between the Tutsi and Hutus. Extreme weather in 2006 left 70% of farmland underwater, destroying the livelihood of many. Tens of thousands were left without shelter and the threat of a food crisis is still imminent. Burundi remains one of the world's poorest nations, with 70-80% living below the poverty line.
A treaty between the warring tribes in 2000 has yielded much peace for Burundi. A new constitution safeguards the interests of minority groups and has provided peaceful democratic elections in 2005 and 2010. Burundi’s current president is a born again Christian and calls on the counsel of Church leaders for guidance in his decision-making. Burundi needs continued progress in establishing a solid rule of law, including a disarmament program to rid the nation of surplus firearms from prior conflicts. The hundreds of thousands of refugees lack basic services, such as health, education, and shelter. 600,000 people need food aid. 45% of children are undernourished, and thousands suffer from malaria and AIDS. Children are still tried as adults in court, often with no legal representation. These myriad problems seem insurmountable from a human perspective, but not to an omnipotent God.
Burundi enjoys freedom of religion, with 90% of the population identifying themselves as Christians. There has been an awakening in recent years within the Church that shallow religion will not overcome the deep-seated tensions among ethnic groups. Almost all Protestant and Anglican churches have seen significant growth, even during war. Past violence caused Bible schools to close, leaving a lack of trained Church leadership. The physical and spiritual needs of the vast refugee population must be addressed by the Church. There is an urgent need for missionaries in the neglected rural areas of Burundi and for an increase in specific ministry to the estimated 560,000 children who have lost at least one parent to war or disease. With an adult literacy rate of 58%, reading programs are needed so people can study God’s Word. Though much peace has been granted to this once war-torn nation, Burundi is desperate for the true Prince of Peace to supply provision and order for a battered, dejected land.
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