As reported in the ACNS Digest on 11 August, the Bishop of Bujumbura in Burundi, the Rt Revd Pie Ntukamazina, was abducted along with other Church officials and religious leaders while travelling in convoy outside the country's capital city. The intervention of government forces allowed the party to escape and eventually return to Bujumbura.
The following is a letter from Bishop Ntukamazina on his ordeal.
"I lift up my eyes to the hills&My help comes from the Lord" Ps. 121: 1,2.
Dear Partners and Friends in Christ,
On Sunday 8 August it was my 52nd birthday. Surprisingly enough, I remembered it was my anniversary when I was hiding in the bush. This was the day we (23 of us, including five women, one catholic priest, one Catholic Deacon and a Muslim leader riding on a motorcycle) were stopped by rebels called the Force for National Liberation (FNL). We were returning, travelling in a four-vehicle convoy, from a confirmation service in Muyama Parish, 50 miles from Bujumbura.
It was 4.30pm when we were approaching home at about seven miles from Bujumbura City, and we saw in front of us five gunmen pointing their guns towards our direction at a distance of 2O meters. We were then forced into nearby countryside, were robbed of our possessions and held captive. Having made a few telephone calls, the gunmen then set fire to the vehicles, then engaged in a long gun battle with other armed men coming from behind us. This counter-attack allowed us to flee and I hid in the nearby bushy scrubland, where I stayed for the whole night alone.
You can imagine what I was doing and what I was thinking about throughout that night. Yes, I was praying and I was gazing. Praying, wondering if God would come to my rescue. Looking around, eyes wide-open to see what was surrounding me, such as enemies, animals and of course snakes.
That night everything turned into a movie as I focused my heart on what is the meaning of life. In fact, that was even the title of my sermon during our confirmation service. A text was taken from Luke 12: 13- 21; Col. 3:3, "For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
During the two hours of shooting and fighting between the two groups of gunmen, I was lying down wondering who would help me out. Who would save my life? Then I remembered Psalm 23:4, "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me"...
I looked into the sky, then remembered the words, which I could not know where it was written in the Bible, "I lift up my eyes to the hills...My help comes from the Lord." I did not bother to know where it was mentioned in the Bible, but one thing I concluded was that only God and people that God would use are the only power that could rescue my life.
Yes, God used His power to rescue my life and the lives of those who were with me.
Yes, God used people like the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (FDD) to rescue my life, when at 4.30am, I climbed a big mango tree then shouted to them introducing myself, who I was, and requested them to let me come down and join them, not knowing who they were, because it was still dark. I was invited to come down.
Thanks to God who saved us from danger. Thanks to you, friends and partners for supporting us with your prayers and thank you indeed for the phone calls and e-mail messages of encouragement addressed to us and to our families.
Please, continue to pray for:
Sincerely yours in His love and service,
For E.E.B. Diocese of Bujumbura
The Rt Revd Pie Ntukamazina
Bishop of Bujumbura