Burundi Scholar continues reconciliation PhD despite violent political crisis

4 October 2019 |

Langham Scholar Emmanuel Ndikumana is currently studying for a PhD in Theology at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. His focus is on justice, forgiveness and reconciliation in Burundi, his home country.

Burundi hospital
Burundi is recovering from a violent political crisis in 2015 [file photo]

But his research has been hindered by a violent political crisis there in 2015. Emmanuel served as the Training Secretary of IFES Francophone Africa (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students).

He continues to serve as President and Executive Director of Partners Trust International. It promotes Christian leadership for holistic transformation in Burundi through theological training, multi-ethnic fellowship, and community projects. Emmanuel and his wife Asele have four children. They are Jolly Emmanuella, Lewis, Elsa, and Melissa. Hear from Emmanuel:

God sustains me

I am thankful to God for the way He has sustained me on the journey of research over the last five years.

Emmanuel Ndikumana
Langham Scholar Emmanuel Ndikumana (from Burundi).

I am very thankful to Him for the people He has surrounded me with, without whom it might have been impossible for me to continue.

These include my tutors and mentors at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and two very supportive supervisors (an American psychologist and a British historian). I also have an understanding family and community at home.

Violent political crisis

When I started the journey in 2014, Burundi’s prospects were very good. Researching on reconciliation promised a huge contribution to the healing of the nation.

Emmanuel is studying at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies

In 2015, however, another violent political crisis erupted that seriously affected not the nature or orientation of my research, but the way I was going to collect data.

Fear, suspicion, mistrust, etc. replaced the openness, and freedom of speech and movement people had been enjoying for the previous ten years. The accusations, counter-accusations, and the policing of speech and movement put my research on hold for a significant amount of time. 

Helping the church to respond 

The crisis also affected seriously the structures and operations of Partners Trust International, the ministry I work with to enhance Christian leadership through theological education.

Langham Scholars at a consultation in Cambridge, 2017.
Emmanuel with other Langham Scholars at a consultation in Cambridge, 2017.

The school of theology and leadership closed for a while, and a significant number of influential fellowship members serving the ministry left the country for safety reasons.

This meant that I could no longer enjoy the full support of the competent team I had put in place before embarking on the journey of research.

A significant amount of time and effort had to go into keeping at least some aspects of the ministry running, looking after members who stayed behind, and, most importantly, helping the church in general respond to the crisis. 

Refugees remain outside Burundi

Today, the situation is somewhat different, although a lot still needs to be fixed. Violence has receded significantly, although there still are reports of isolated cases of murders due to political intolerance.

General elections are scheduled for 2020, even though hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced during the 2015 crisis remain outside the country. People freely move around.

Thankful to God

I once again thank God that, in spite of all the above, I have been able to resume my research and to make some very significant progress in the last year and a half.

Burundi borders Rwanda, Tanzania and DR Congo.

A number of information media are operating again, though under tight surveillance. Others have been completely banned from airing in Burundi. 

If the context continues to improve then I have good reason to believe that I can complete my research within 18 months.

This is based on the Dean’s Review I had last in August. Thank you once again for being partners in this adventure of faith.

Please pray:

  • That Emmanuel can remain focused on his PhD despite huge challenges.
  • For peace of mind and spirit to remain sensitive and alert. But without being too affected emotionally by what goes on around him.
  • That Emmanuel will have the balanced spiritual, emotional, and physical strength he needs as a husband, father, leader, and researcher. 
Burundi profile
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