- The Anglican Church is experiencing a fast expansion in Burundi as the country slowly returns to peace. The Anglicans have just inaugurated the new diocese of Muyinga in the predominantly Catholic country.
The Anglican Church of Burundi is finding time to celebrate what it calls a "historic" event. This weekend, the new diocese of Muyinga was inaugurated and two new bishops were consecrated. Reverend Eraste Bigirimana was consecrated and installed as Bishop of Muyinga. Reverend Sixbert Macumi was further consecrated and installed as Bishop of Buye.
According to the church community, which has its roots in Engliand, there had been "colourful and joyful ceremonies for the consecrations and inauguration of Muyinga diocese, which took place on Saturday in the stadium at Muyinga, north-east in the small country.
The Archbishop of Burundi, the Most Reverend Bernard Ntahoturi, presided the ceremony. Most other Burundian bishops also participated in the event. A high point in the ceremonies was when the Archbishop and gathered Bishops laid their hands on Reverend Eraste and Reverend Sixbert. Each received the symbols of office - a Bible, a cross, a ring, and, as they were installed, a staff.
The new diocese of Muyinga is the sixth diocese in the Province of the Eglise Anglicane du Burundi (EAB) and will serve the parishes in the north-eastern areas of Cankuzo and Muyinga that stretch to the border with Tanzania. It is a predominantly rural area and consists of 10 parishes and numerous sub-parishes, EAB informs.
The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally been the strongest Christian faith in this former Belgian colony, and an estimated 62 percent of Burundians are Catholics. A further 7 percent belong to other Christian communities, while an estimated 31 percent belong to African and other religions. The Anglican faith is believed to be spreading most among non-Christians while the dominant Catholic Church is remaining rather stable.
In neighbouring Rwanda, which shares much of its history with Burundi, trends are somewhat different following the 1994 genocide, where a small number of church leaders from all faiths were found to have participated in the slaughtering. During the last decade, church communities have lost members while Islam suddenly is becoming one of the country's more important religions. In Burundi, only an estimated 1 percent is Muslim.
In Burundi, the Anglicans have been able to stay out of the ethnic conflict, explaining their expansion. "Healing and reconciliation" is one of the church leaders' main outspoken tasks in the war-ridden country, where the population is seeking spiritual leadership to cope with the difficult situation.
Asked about his thoughts on becoming the Bishop of the new diocese, Bishop Eraste admits that he faces a big task but he knows that God will help him. "It is a calling, a blessing from God", he says. Among his priorities are the training of pastors and the building of a Bible School.
The installation of Bishop Sixbert as Bishop of Buye took place on Sunday in the Cathedral of All Saints in Buye. Bishop Sixbert becomes the third Bishop of the oldest diocese in the Province of the EAB. Buye diocese was inaugurated in 1965. Asked about his vision for the diocese, he says that he wants to give priority to evangelism.
He says he is realistic, however, about the many challenges that include extreme poverty, AIDS, the results of the war, and the affects of the recent drought in the northern part of the diocese. "I want to see in Buye diocese a Church that serves God, His people, and the whole world, so that it may become God's Kingdom."
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