By Robert Dilday
Tensions remain high in Burundi as protesters continued to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, and Baptists in the East African country are expressing grave concerns, according to the Baptist World Alliance.
“We ask you to continue to pray for us because some have left their jobs, homes and churches,” Juvenal Nzosaba, general secretary of the Union of Baptist Churches in Burundi, told the BWA. “Many people do not have food. It is a major problem.”
The crisis began in late April after Nkurunziza’s ruling party nominated him to stand again in the June presidential election and deepened last week when a top general staged a failed coup attempt.
More than 110,000 people have fled the violence to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations. Cholera has broken out in refugee camps in Tanzania, killing at least 27 people.
Baptist leader Nzosaba told the BWA that more than 20 people have died, more than 100 injured and about 600 arrested, among whom were children and youth participating in the protests. In addition to those fleeing the country, thousands more are internally displaced.
Opposition groups say the president’s actions jeopardize a peace deal that has kept ethnic tensions in check since a civil war, which killed 300,000 people, ended in 2005. That war pitted the majority Hutus against minority Tutsis, and many observers fear renewed violence between the ethnic groups.
Burundi has some 50,000 Baptist members in approximately 300 churches affiliated with two BWA member organizations.