- Unitarian Universalism Connection
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) is working with Burundi Unitarians to raise funds for a Burundi Unitarian Refugee Relief Fund. The original emergency funds raised to support the Unitarian refugees have now been fully disbursed, and there is urgent need to replenish them.
Burundi Unitarians have suffered a great deal since the current political crisis began in 2015. The church was attacked and ransacked. The minister, Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence, was kidnapped and jailed, and released only as the result of tremendous pressure from Unitarians and UUs around the world. He left the country as soon as he could, seeking refuge in Canada. Other church members have had to leave the country for their safety as well. They are now scattered through Canada, the U.S., Belgium, and East Africa.
While in exile, some have received scholarships to attend University, some have collaborated to form their own business, and some are in desperate circumstances, with limited money for food. None of them have the funds that would be required to deal with medical issues and other unforeseen threats to their well-being.
Rev. Fulgence has received asylum in Canada. He is serving as a ministerial intern for the Saskatoon UU congregation as he works toward ministerial fellowship in the U.S. and Canada. His wife and son are now with him, and are beginning the asylum process there. He continues to minister to his Burundi congregants, maintaining daily contact to provide them with guidance and spiritual support. Hope is fueled by reminders that UUs from around the world have not forgotten them.
The congregation in Burundi still meets every Sunday with about 20 attendees (including 5 new members this year). They are holding on to each other for dear life! The Unitarians are in some danger and may need to leave quickly; the government is actively seeking out and killing those perceived to be opponents (which includes anyone not actively supporting the President). The situation in Burundi is very fragile now as the President has announced his intention to run for yet another term (contrary to the agreement that ended the last civil war). The UN and African Union are warning of high potential for civil, or even regional, war and of genocide.
The Burundi Unitarian Refugee Relief Fund will promote the safety of church members in Burundi, including those who are forced to flee, as well as those members currently in exile who are having difficulty meeting their basic needs for food, housing, and health care.
Requests for funds will be reviewed by Rev. Fulgence, who is currently the Vice-President of the ICUU board. Final decisions about disbursal of funds will be made in collaboration with the ICUU Executive Director and Treasurer. Funds will address needs deemed most critical, with the goal of promoting self-sufficiency.
Rev. Sara Ascher, Executive Director of the ICUU
As politics and policies around the world become more xenophobic, more isolationist, and less compassionate, our interconnectedness as Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists is more crucial than ever. “We need one another…when with encouragement we might endure, and stand again,” writes Unitarian George Odell. Our family of faith in Burundi, and those who have had to flee Burundi for their lives, need us. The fragile state of the situation in Burundi for our siblings in faith continues. They are in need of our support. The everyday comforts we enjoy are out of reach for them: with very limited employment opportunities, the high cost of housing and food, and the on-going threat of violence, life remains a struggle. If we believe that we are one family of faith, then we must reach out our hands and our resources to help those in our family who struggle to endure. Please join with the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) in maintaining our commitment to be in solidarity with and strive to ensure the future of our Burundian Unitarian community.
Hon. Thomas H. Andrews|President and CEO
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
As a UU community, we can aid Burundi Unitarians who are seeking refuge from persecution by their government. This timely initiative addresses a compelling need and reflects the very best of who we are as Unitarian Universalists. We are deeply grateful to all who are engaged in this effort to support Burundi Unitarians in a time of great challenge and need.
Rev. Jill McAllister, Corvallis, Oregon
The Unitarian Church of Burundi is an inspiration for our religious movement around the world. Founded in 2004, in a country and society lacking traditions of religious and political freedom, a committed congregation gathered and expanded, built a church building which became a community center for training and respite, and reached out to help other new Unitarian groups in Africa. These new Unitarians helped all of us in other countries see new possibilities for our faith, and understand its benefits in new ways. When political unrest in Burundi threatened the lives of many of the church leaders, UU groups around the world responded, and helped them to safety. That safety has not been easy, however, as they have been displaced, separated from family and friends and work, needing to start their lives again. This project of support cannot be completed in one year — lives are too complicated for that. I will continue to support this work, and the Burundi Unitarian Relief Fund, to the best of my ability, with the help of my congregation in Corvallis OR, and of the Burundian Unitarian who has come to live with us here — Blaise Ntakarutimana. These connections are deeply important, and I urge you to join in with your support.