11th March, 2016

The World Council of Churches and All Africa Conference of Churches has sent a "peace message" urging all parties in Burundi to promote national unity, healing and reconciliation following an ecumenical visit earlier this month.

The African nation has recently faced escalating violence amid a polarisation between the Burundian Government and opposition following the re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza last year. At least 400 people have reportedly died since last April when the president launched his campaign for a third term in office last April.

In the message, sent following the visit from 1st to 4th March, the church representatives expressed their "great concern" over the escalation of tensions and violence and urged all parties to stop the killings and work nonviolently to "achieve lasting stability, security and peace".

They also called on the local churches to "strengthen their unity" and attend to humanitarian needs and put in place a mediation process for national unity. "We believe that the churches in the country can be strong agents of peace and that they should be seen as vital resources towards this end."

Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said later the WCC remained "gravely concerned" about the "egregious human rights violations in Burundi". "We strengthen our appeal to the government and political leadership to step back from the path of violence onto the path of peace, back from bitter divisiveness onto the path of unity, back from disregard for human life onto the path of reconciliation."

~ www.oikoumene.org

- DAVID ADAMS