Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in Islamist activity since 2016. Militants linked to ISIS and al-Qaida, who had been largely contained in neighbouring Mali and Niger, have crossed porous borders in the north to broaden their influence in the Sahel region. Christians have been a primary target of the jihadists’ campaign since April 2019, when approximately 70 Christians were killed and five churches were attacked.
More than 200 churches have reportedly closed in northern and eastern Burkina Faso due to security issues and the threat of attack. As many as 10,000 Christians have fled their homes as a result of violence and threats against Christians.
Nearly 800,000 people in total have been displaced by the conflict, adding to an already strained economy amid political uncertainty.
As the situation changes, so does the church. After years of peace, Burkina Christians are now going through a challenging time of persecution for the sake of their faith in Jesus Christ. It has made Christians stronger in their faith and, as a result, the church is changing and growing. Muslims and animists, seeing the courage and endurance of Christians, even in the face of severe trials, begin to ask questions:
“Who is this God, that the threat of losing everything, even life, does not make people deny Him?”
The testimony of the lives of Burkina’s Christian brothers and sisters is drawing many souls to Christ.
Serving the Lord at this time is an enormous privilege and gives much satisfaction, but it also brings considerable difficulties. For a pastor serving on the front lines, caring for congregation members can be a great challenge. Serving in villages with few Christians and where poverty exists, presents additional challenges for pastors. In the north of Burkina Faso, where food is often scarce, many people visit the local pastor after the Sunday service. Why? It has been accepted that the pastor and his family should not let their guests go hungry. Providing dinner for several dozen people becomes a real challenge when the family has difficulties finding food for themselves on a daily basis.
The military actions of the jihadists turned against Christians very quickly. Pastors who try to help and share food among the orphans and the poor quickly become the target of bloody attacks. Despite the experiences they have endured, pastors do not turn away from their calling. They run from place to place with their families, but one thing remains the same – wherever they are, they try to bring the light of the Gospel and comfort to those who are struggling.
One of the pastors shared his story with us.
My name is Pastor Etienne and my wife’s name is Pengdwende. I was saved because I was suffering from an illness. I went to church, and the Christians prayed for me and I was healed. From then on, I began to follow Jesus. I have now been following him for 30 years. I have good health and am so happy in Christ, all this time I have clung to faith in Jesus’ name.
I became a pastor seven years ago. After I finished my Bible training, my wife and I were sent to a village near the Mali-Burkina Faso border. Jihadists came to attack our home. By God’s grace, I was not there, only my wife was home but thankfully they didn’t hurt her. However, they burned the house and left with my motorbike.
We left the area for another town where we worked with some other pastors for two months. We were then sent to another village. Unfortunately, the number of jihadists grew a lot during this time and soon they attacked this village as well. Then we escaped as far as Tougouri, and here, we are as displaced people.
Now we have new challenges; poverty came with being relocated. There is hunger. Even sending kids to school is problematic because you struggle to pay their school fees. May the Lord help us to triumph. In the meantime, let God’s Word spread. Let the work of evangelisation unfold in the name of Jesus. Amen.
VOM is assisting by providing for the displaced families, including Bibles, food, clean water, hygiene items, school fees and even blankets for the chilly nights. Subsequent attacks by jihadists are increasing the number of internally displaced people and the needs are great.
Please pray for the people of Burkina Faso and for pastors like Etienne, who are bringing physical, emotional and spiritual comfort to the fearful, hurt and grieving.