Recent arrests of church leaders and members highlight violation of religious liberty in the country.
Seventh-day Adventist world church president Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson has issued an urgent appeal for prayer following the recent arrest and detention of 22 Adventist leaders and members in the central African nation of Burundi. The arrests were ordered by the national government and follow six months of illegal interference on the part of the Burundi government in the administration of the Adventist Church in that country.
“I call on all Seventh-day Adventists to pray for our church members in Burundi, for religious liberty in that country, and for the release of all those improperly imprisoned Seventh-day Adventists,” said Pastor Wilson in a statement issued May 13. “Please pray until we see God’s mighty hand changing this dire situation in Burundi.”
Among those arrested was Pastor Lamec Barishinga, who was duly elected in November 2018 as president of the Burundi Union Mission. The national government of Burundi, however, has refused to recognize the change in leadership and has continued to support the former union mission president.
“The situation in Burundi is both complex and sensitive and is being driven by many different forces—some of which we are aware of, and some of which we have yet to fully understand,” said Dr. Ganoune Diop, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Adventist world church. Diop recently headed a delegation of Adventist world church leaders to visit government officials in Burundi.
“The recent arrests have made it clear the government of Burundi is interfering in the selection of Adventist Church leadership and is acting contrary to the principles of religious liberty,” said Diop. “This is a breach of Burundi’s human rights obligations under international law.”
The Adventist Church in Burundi has some 186,000 members who are active in community service and outreach programs throughout the country. Seventh-day Adventists uphold the Bible as the Word of God, and accept Jesus Christ as their only Savior. They teach that church members are to be good citizens, obeying the laws of the land, and are to honor and pray for government leaders. Adventists believe they are called to follow in Christ’s footsteps, meeting people’s needs physically, socially, and most important, spiritually.
Pastor Wilson has extended a personal message to Adventist Church members in Burundi, telling them they are not forgotten by their worldwide church.
“Your world church family, with millions of members globally, is praying for you,” said Pastor Wilson. “Stay faithful to God’s biblical truths as you claim the following Bible promise: ‘Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’ (Joshua 1:9).”
With the arrests last week, Pastor Wilson is now asking for the support of the international community in securing the release of the detained Adventists and for the return of the Union Mission administrative offices to the duly elected church leaders.