"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" -- 2 Chronicles 7:14
This was the theme of the recent ecumenical event held over a weekend in October 2004 in Bujumbura. It brought Christians together to pray for Burundi at a crucial time in the country's history when the transitional period agreed in Arusha is due to end on 31st October and plans are being made for a referendum on a new constitution followed by elections.
Led by Roman Catholic and Protestant Church leaders, around 1000 people joined a march through the streets of the capital to demonstrate their solidarity and commitment to pray for peace in Burundi, and to acknowledge that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is the author and sustainer of that peace.
Meetings at one of the town's stadiums drew large crowds of several thousand people who joined in worship and prayer. Prominent Church leaders took up the theme of the event, emphasising the importance of repentance, unity, and reconciliation. They also demonstrated their message by working, worshipping, and praying together.
The occasion of a Prayer Breakfast provided an opportunity for Dr. John Minani, Speaker of the Parliament, to bring a message from those in authority in the land. He spoke of the importance of building in unity. He took the story of the "Tower of Babel", taken from Genesis 11: 1-9, and compared it with Burundi politicians competing for power. He made an appeal to Burundians to opt for building peace in unity to avoid confusion like that found at the tower of Babel.
The Most Revd Pie Ntukamazina, Anglican Bishop of Bujumbura, emphasised Christ as the source of true peace. He spoke from John14:27, "Peace I leave with you, peace I give to you...." and stressed that Christ is the Prince of Peace and peace is our right as people created in God's image.
Others, like Bishop Evarist Ngoyagoye of the Roman Catholic Church and Bishop Elie Buconyori of the Free Methodist Church, encouraged people to continue praying for peace in unity. "In marching for peace, we believers wanted to witness our willingness to show God and people around us that we are longing for peace. We are tired of war and other calamities that go with it."
Organisers of the event were encouraged that it received very good coverage by the media with the main meetings going out live on national radio.