Burkina Faso is long known for its peaceful co-existence among religious communities. But over the past two years, attacks by Islamist militants, military operations, and waves of inter-communal violence have left hundreds dead and 135,000 displaced, triggering an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis that has caught many by surprise, says New Humanitarian News.
It reports that “home-grown militant groups, as well as extremists linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group, have been in the country’s arid north (bordering Mali) since 2016, but have expanded to new fronts in the east and south-west, threatening the stability of neighbouring countries – Ghana, Benin, Togo, and Ivory Coast among them”.
On 28 April, in Sirgadji village in the north-eastern province of Soum, after the Assemblies of God church had ended its service, Pastor Pierre Ouédraogo, 80, and other members were chatting in the church yard. Around 1pm a dozen armed men arrived on motorbikes to storm the place, according to a local leader.
“The assailants asked the Christians to convert to Islam, but the pastor and the others refused. They ordered them to gather under a tree and took their Bibles and mobile phones. Then they called them, one after the other, behind the church building where they shot them dead.”
As well as the pastor, his son Wend-Kuni and brother-in-law, Zoéyandé Sawadogo (a deacon) were killed, plus Sayouba and Arouna Sawadogo, and a primary school teacher Elie Boena. Adama Sawadogo, seriously injured, was taken to a nearby medical centre, his injuries are not life-threatening.
The assailants then set the church on fire – plus two motorbikes, then stole some sheep and a bag of rice from the pastor’s house before leaving.
The six were buried the same day, in a ceremony attended by both Christian and Muslim communities.
According to other local sources, the same attackers came back into the village the next day “searching for Christians”. The sources say the armed groups can move with impunity because of the lack of law enforcement.
More than 100 Christians already have left for more secure towns further south, such as Kongoussi, over 75km away.
The country has been the scene of several Islamist attacks, including one in January 2016 in which 29 people were killed, including a US missionary and six Christians on a humanitarian trip. On the very same day, an Australian doctor and his wife were kidnapped in Djibo, near the Mali border. Ken and Jocelyn Elliott, who are in their 80s, had worked in Burkina Faso since the 1970s. Jocelyn was released after a month, but her husband, who was declared a citizen of the West African nation by an official decree in November 2016, is still missing.
Source: World Watch Monitor
- Uphold the grieving, the injured, the fearful and those who have fled their homes.
- Pray the Christian communities will encourage one another in the faith and care for one another as they endure this great suffering.
- Pray too for those responsible; that they would leave behind the desire to perpetrate evil and instead be given the opportunity to turn their lives around through the transforming message of the cross.
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