Updates from Burundi Unitarians

By Eric Cherry

UPDATE 12/19 From the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists: Update on Burundi Situation Violence in Burundi has escalated with government forces killing civilians, leaving the bodies in the streets to further terrorise their people. 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. Regrettably, it is now necessary for Burundi Unitarians to join the multitudes fleeing the country for personal safety. Assistance is being offered to all our congregants who need to leave and several large homes in another country are being rented to provide shelter.
So far everyone has been able to leave safely, although some Unitarians remain in country. It is likely we will need to house and feed people away from home for a number of months. Provisions have been made for the Unitarian Church Building in Bujumbura to be secured and guarded. When possible, worship and prayer continues there. The Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana is living in one of the rented shelters, organizing relief efforts and looking after the spiritual needs of both Unitarians and non-Unitarians. A significant grant from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) combined with the generous donations from Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists around the world is making all this possible. Any funds the Burundi Unitarians had have been frozen by the Burundi government. The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) is working closely with the Unitarian Church of Burundi to support these efforts. Partners are assisting through a special multi-organizational working group coordinated by the ICUU and also including representatives of the Canadian Unitarian Council, International Bridges for Justice, UUA International Office, UUSC and the ICUU Francophone Mentoring Coalition. If you are contacted by individual Burundian Unitarians seeking support or assistance, please refer them to this joined-up support effort rather than offering direct assistance. Please send any questions to Rev. Steve Dick at execsec@icuu.net. Further donations will be need to the meet the ongoing needs of Burundians in exile. Please continue to support the ICUU Burundi Appeal. You can donate online via credit card or PayPal. Checks in $ can be sent to Burundi Appeal, ICUU, PO Box 2575, Corvallis. OR 97339, USA Cheques in £ can be sent to Burundi Appeal, ICUU, 345 Addiscombe Road, Croydon, Surrey, CR0 7LG, UK Donations from US taxpayers only are tax deductible.
UPDATE 12/8 From the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists: Update on Situation of Burundi Unitarians The Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana is safe and well and living in another African country for the time being. With him are several other Burundian Unitarians who have needed to leave their homes for personal safety. From his temporary exile, Fulgence is in contact with the congregation in Burundi and continues to serve as their minister. The congregation in Bujumbura continues to hold services and to be an important voice of liberal religion and free faith in its community. However, the charges against Fulgence are still pending and there are concerns that other congregants may be persecuted.
Burundi Unitarians are grateful for the many letters and petitions sent to various authorities and governments campaigning for the release of Fulgence. There is little doubt that such correspondence has had a significant impact. However, at the present time, supporters are asked not to send further communications to officials in Burundi or elsewhere and to maintain a watching brief. There is concern that correspondence could escalate tensions and place persons still in Burundi in danger. Our global community will be alerted if the situation changes and if there is a need for further campaigning. In the meantime, the funds donated to the Burundi appeal will enable our sisters and brothers in faith to survive. All the present bank accounts have been frozen by the government and the generous donations received from around the world means Burundi Unitarians can continue to exist. Unfortunately, there is no swift resolution in sight and further donations are likely to be needed. ICUU will continue to keep the existing appeal open. Please understand that sharing specifics in public could be problematic at the moment, but know that an inter-organizational working group coordinated by ICUU is working with Burundi Unitarians to support them in this difficult time. Some of you may have been contacted by individuals in Burundi asking for financial support. You are asked to refer such requests to Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana rather than responding to them directly. The ICUU group has arrangements in place to address needs that arise. Fulgence is reachable via his usual email addresses and, if need be, he can be contacted via Steve Dick at execsec@icuu.net. The best way to offer further support is by making donations to the ICUU Burundi Appeal. The ICUU Burundi Working Group will issue further statements and updates as the situation develops in Burundi. For more information or to share news, the Rev. Steve Dick, Executive Director of ICUU, is serving as point of contact. He can be reached at execsec@icuu.net. 8 December 2015 issued by the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU)
UPDATE 11/27 From the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists: Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana is Free and Safe! 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 assist 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 have 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.


UPDATE 11/23 From ICUU: Thanks for you all for the letters, petition, interventions, social media posting, prayers, donations you have been making and sharing regarding the persecution of Unitarians in Burundi and in particular the imprisonment of the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana. ICUU Has been working behind the scenes with the support of and collaboration with the UUA, the United Nations Office, the ICUU Francophone Mentoring Coalition, the CUC and other related groups to free Fulgence and to assist Burundi Unitarians.
Specific details are best not aired in social media, but we do want to share with you a general update on the situation.The Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana remains in police custody but he is being “reasonably” treated. He has full access to his lawyers and both I and Eric Cherry have been able to speak directly with Fulgence.The Unitarian Church of Burundi has submitted full financial records for the last twelve months which are being scrutinized by government officials. Their findings are being awaited. It is hoped that the release of Fulgence can be arranged after the scrutiny has been completed. There are no guarantees and we await the outcome.We are hopeful that we may be able to bring you positive news within the next several days.In the meantime, please continue your efforts to raise awareness of this situation and to send communications of protect and concern to Burundi Embassies and Consulates in your own countries as well as to embassies and consulates of your own country in Burundi.Financial donations are even more necessary as legal and other costs will be higher than anticipated. We may need to deploy funds very quickly, so speed is of the essence in donations. Please contribute now! Assistance and support to other Unitarians in Burundi is being arranged through a variety of channels. Know that everything possible is being undertaken.Messages of support and prayers are welcomed by the Unitarians in Burundi at this difficult time. Please do not expect responses, they have their hands full, but know that your love and concern does make a real difference to them.Please send donations if you can, that is one of the greatest needs at the moment.In Faith, Steve
UPDATE 11/20:Please contribute to the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) appeal to support Rev. Fulgence and the Unitarians in Burundi during this very difficult time.

UPDATE 11/20: Rev. Tet Gallardo of the UU Church of the Philippines has distributed a change.org petition demanding the release of Rev. Fulgence. Please sign on.

In the message below, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) shares deeply troubling news from Burundi.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is actively engaged in the effort to #ReleaseRevFulgence and support Burundian Unitarians. Please help amplify the message. As other opportunities to engage develop, we'll share them here.
Dear Friends - Within the context of extreme civil unrest in Burundi, recently the Unitarian Church of Burundi (the Assemble Unitarien Chretian de Burundi) was attacked and ransacked, with bullets fired into walls and doors and money 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 our member groups and partners around the world, is calling upon the Burundian government to cease these activities immediately, which we interpret as persecution for reasons of faith. Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists in the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Romania and beyond are united in concern for the Unitarians of Burundi. We call upon the government of Burundi to immediately cease and desist the persecution of the Unitarian Church of Burundi and its members stemming from reasons of their faith. We call for the immediate release 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 dedicated as we are to religious freedom, and a civil society in which all persons are respected and valued.


About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


For more information contact .

Rev. Fulgence

Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana
Rev. Fulgence