News brief: Unitarians flee violent unrest in Burundi
Many members of Unitarian church have joined their minister in exile in another country.
As violent unrest grows in the central African country Burundi, many members of the Unitarian church in Bujumbura have fled to a neighboring country, according to an update from the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists on December 19. The Burundi Unitarians have joined their minister, the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, who left the country after spending several days in jail. “The still active charges against the leader of the Burundi Unitarians are now being used to seek to arrest and intimidate the lawyers and those of others faiths who were of assistance,” reports the ICUU, which is raising money to assist the exiles, who are staying in several rented houses.
November 27, 2015 9:58 AM
We are delighted to report that the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana is no longer in police custody in Burundi and he has travelled to another country.
Let us be thankful to God and to our sisters and brothers for this blessing. So many of us working together has made a difference.
We give Fulgence a chance to catch his breath and know we will hear from him soon.
He is grateful to everyone who supported him by signing the petition, writing letters and making donations to see his release.
Let us be restrained and not overly triumphant in our response to this wonderful news, particularly in postings on social media.
The charges against Fulgence remain under investigation and we need to remember the congregation of Unitarians remaining in Burundi. Sensitivity to the impact our comments might on them is important.
We still need to stand on the side of love for those of our faith and for all the people in Burundi. There is much more to do and say.
ICUU has formed a working group to focus on these concerns in partnership with Burundi Unitarians, the UUA, the CUC and others. You will hear more from us.
Rev Steve Dick
International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU)
…with an Urgent Request to write letters!
…and to sign this change.org petition!
Donate directly to the ICUU to help Unitarians in Burundi. You can donate online via credit card or PayPal by clicking here. Regrettably, Canadian tax receipts cannot be issued at this time.
From Rev. Diane Rollert (Montreal) who has been in contact with a member on the ground in Burundi on November 20:
Thank you all for what you are doing. As of this moment, Fulgence is still in jail. One member of the congregation has spent the day at the police station advocating. He tells me that Fulgence continues to be brave, though he fears for his safety. We know that his family is in touch with him and that there are many aid organizations who have pledged their support, and contact has been made with Amnesty International. ICUU, CUC and UUA are all working together to do what they can.
Within the context of extreme civil unrest in Burundi, we want to share disturbing news affecting our brothers and sisters in Burundi.
Recently the Unitarian Church of Burundi (the Assemblée des Chrétiens Unitariens du Burundi) was attacked and ransacked, where bullets were fired into walls and doors, and money was stolen. Members of the church were questioned by government officials who visited on a Sunday. Two days ago, the minister of the church, the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, was arrested from the church at gunpoint, taken into police custody and interrogated severely regarding the activities of his church. He was threatened with physical harm and death. At the moment, he remains in custody, with other members of the church also being questioned.
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, along with its member groups and partners around the world, including the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Unitarian Universalist Association in the US, and Unitarians in the United Kingdom, Romania and beyond are united in concern for the Unitarians of Burundi.
We collectively call upon the Burundian government to cease and desist the persecution of the Unitarian Church of Burundi and its members; we interpret this as persecution stemming from reasons of their faith. We call for the immediate release of the minister of that congregation, the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, from police custody.
Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists around the world stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Burundi, who are as dedicated as we are to religious freedom, and a civil society in which all persons are respected and valued.
The Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana is minister to the Unitarian Church in Bujumbura, Burundi (the Assembly of Unitarian Christians of Burundi). He is also a member-at-large of the Executive Committee of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, and an ICUU consultant to U-U groups in Africa.
Here in Canada, the Canadian Unitarian Council has worked with the Unitarian Church of Burundi to help 150 children go to school, 600 children and their families access health care, and foster families to grow crops to feed children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
In the words of Rev. Fulgence:
When strangers meet, endless
New experiences, new ways of
understanding, and new ways of
When strangers meet, each pays
special attention to the other.
Each is called to serve something larger
than the self.
Today, this morning, let’s light the chalice:
For willingness to grow,
For rich curiosity,
And for common purpose.
This statement was jointly issued by International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the British Assembly of Unitarians, and the Canadian Unitarian Council.
Sample Letters, along with a list of contact information, can be found here.
As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and justice, equity and compassion in human relations. We value religious diversity, and we stand with our Muslim neighbors in this time when they are challenged, worldwide, by hate.
Here in Peterborough, we are both saddened and outraged to learn that Saturday evening’s fire at the Masid Al-Salaam Mosque was indeed the result of a hate crime. In the wake of this violence, and the recent violence in Paris and Beirut and Baghdad, we re-commit ourselves to building and sustaining a community grounded in compassion and justice, a place where all people are free to practice their religion freely and without fear.
In that spirit, we are pleased to partner with Beth Israel Congregation, with whom we share a building, in inviting the people of the Mosque to use space at the shul while repairs are ongoing. We look forward to meeting with Kenzu Abdella, the President of the Mosque, to talk about ways we can be of support. Much gratitude to Larry Gillman, president of the Synagogue, for arranging that meeting. ~ Rev. Julie Stoneberg
May we turn to love in the presence of hate
May we turn to trust rather than fear.
May we turn, always, to our work of becoming a world of justice and compassion.
May peace prevail.
For those who wish to donate in support of the people of the Mosque, visit this on-line fundraiser.
An Evening of Stories of Reconciliation:
“Encountering Spiritual Symbols in Two Worlds” with Shirley Williams, Elder
Friday, October 30, 2015
7:00 – 9:00 pm
775 Weller Street (at Medical Drive)
$5-10 donation or pay what you can. Free parking.
Shirley will compare Anishnaabe teachings and symbols with her experiences of Christian symbols as encountered in a Catholic residential school.
Shirley was born and raised at Wikwemikong, First Nations Unceded Reserve on Manitoulin Island, and now resides in Peterborough. As a child, she attended St. Joseph’s Residential School in Spanish, Ontario. Shirley started her work in the (now) Indigenous Studies Department at Trent to develop and promote Native language courses. She continues to travel, speak and work to promote various Indigenous issues including Nishnaabe language and culture.
Sunday, Nov 1st, immediately following the service
Based on survey results and an appeal from many interested, the UFP Board has called a Congregational Meeting to decide if we can move forward and begin the process of refugee sponsorship.
In preparation, on Sunday, October 25, further printed information will be made available and a table-discussion time after service will address questions.
Please plan to attend on November 1st; your voice is important in this.