From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Burundi bishop optimistic about Mandela as mediator
07 Apr 2000 13:33:40
April 7, 2000 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York
NOTE: For related coverage of the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries meeting, see UMNS stories #186, #187 and #189.
STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) - With Nelson Mandela serving as mediator, Burundi's
civil war may finally end, according to the United Methodist bishop who has
been exiled from that African country during the past six years.
Bishop J. Alfred Ndoricimpa, speaking at the April 3-6 meeting of the United
Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said he is optimistic about Mandela's
chances of bringing peace to Burundi. The liberator and former president of
South Africa was appointed to the position by a coalition of African
countries last December.
More than 200,000 have been killed in Burundi since civil conflict erupted
between the Hutus and Tutsis in 1993. When the country's first
democratically elected president was assassinated in a military coup that
year, Ndoricimpa, who had been the president's spiritual adviser, was warned
his life was in danger. He moved to Nairobi, Kenya, in 1994, and is one of
thousands of Burundians who have left the country.
Until recently, he also had consistently been denied a visa for entry into
the United States to attend United Methodist meetings. A team of bishops and
staff people from the Board of Global Ministries and the denomination's
General Council on Finance and Administration worked in the United States to
secure a visa, according to Bishop David Lawson.
"It was our belief that if everyone was kept informed and all worked at the
question from their special perspective, a good result might come," Lawson
explained. "Central to the effort was Bishop Ndoricimpa, whose patient
approach to political leadership in Africa was matched by his convictions
that God's will would not be denied.
"A special openness of several staff persons in the U.S. Department of State
finally turned the tables, for which the United Methodist Church must be
grateful," Lawson added.
Bishop Dan Solomon, Board of Global Ministries president, noted that
Ndoricimpa has endured threats to his life and personal safety since the war
began and praised "the courage that he has exhibited" as a missional leader
during this period. "He has been on the cutting edge of witness among
dislocated persons," Solomon added.
Ndoricimpa referred to his exile as "days of frustrations and challenges."
But instead of sitting idly by, he worked to expand the United Methodist
ministry that began in Burundi in 1984 to also include Uganda, Rwanda,
Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania. That area now is known as the East Africa Annual
The East Africa Conference's needs include provisions for food and health
care, theological training and leadership development, education for
children, youth and young adults, and worship space in the region's major
The bishop described his deep and sincere appreciation of the support the
Board of Global Ministries and the Council of Bishops have offered him
during his exile. He particularly cited the assistance of Lawson and retired
Bishop Forrest Stith, who has been working with Ndoricimpa in Nairobi.
Besides the Board of Global Ministries meeting, Ndoricimpa will attend the
United Methodist Council of Bishops meeting and General Conference, the
denomination's quadrennial legislative assembly, before returning to Africa
# # #
United Methodist News Service
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