Burundi’s scenic landscape has been overshadowed by more than a decade of civil war and tribal genocide. Small in size, Burundi is a landlocked equatorial nation in the heart of east-central Africa’s Great Lakes region, bordered by Lake Tanganyika, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Rwanda. A land of rolling hills and deep lakes, Burundi was once an ideal tourist destination. However, many today think more of Burundi’s tragic past than its promising future.
Various tribal kings ruled Burundi until 1899 when King Mwezi IV turned sovereignty of the country over to Germany—which agreed to let him remain monarch—in an effort to maintain some degree of power. At the end of World War I, Germany lost control of Burundi to Belgium. Belgium then merged Burundi with Rwanda, which was already a Belgian colony, creating Ruanda-Urundi.
In 1959 Burundi split from Ruanda, now known as Rwanda, and obtained its independence in 1963. However, it wasn’t until 1993 that Burundi was able to hold its first democratic presidential election. But just 100 days into the new president’s term, he was killed, along with Rwanda’s president, when their plane was shot down over Kigali, Rwanda. This incident was blamed for sparking widespread ethnic violence between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi tribes in both Burundi and Rwanda. More than 200,000 Burundians were killed and hundreds of thousands more became refugees.
Today Burundi is one of the world’s poorest nations. Periodic famines devastate the country as most Burundians depend upon subsistence farming for their livelihood. Only 50 percent of children go to school, and HIV/AIDS is said to infect approximately one in 15 adults.
Adventists in Burundi
Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili
Christianity, indigenous beliefs
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
CHURCH GROWTH IN THE LAST YEAR
*General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 145th Annual Statistical Report
Despite the many challenges that exist in Burundi the Adventist Church is strong; one person out of every 81 in the country is an Adventist. In 1925 Belgian missionary David Delhove became the first Seventh-day Adventist to establish a work in what is now Burundi. He had traveled throughout the region as a reconnaissance officer for the Belgian Army during World War I. After the war he returned and helped open three mission stations. He remained a missionary to Africa until his death in 1949.
Church membership has grown to more than 100,000 persons worshiping in 224 churches. Most of these members, however, live in rural areas of the country. Relatively few Adventists live in Bujumbura, the nation’s capital. For years a cramped clinic has been the church’s main outreach in this city. Early next year Adventists around the world will have an opportunity to help build a new hospital in the heart of the city with part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering. This health center will be a beacon of light and an effective outreach for many who want to see the Adventist Church grow even more in Burundi.