Date:  November 8, 2023

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 718

Extended RLPB -- we must not forget our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso 
By Elizabeth Kendal 

BACKGROUND: The population of Burkina Faso is 63.8 percent Muslim (mostly Sunni) and 26.3 percent Christian (mostly Roman Catholic); Indigenous beliefs are widespread. The country – which is officially secular – has a long history of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence. Christians live predominantly in the centre of the country, around the capital Ouagadougou. Islam dominates throughout the rural periphery, particularly in west, north and east. Terrorism spilled from Mali into northern Burkina Faso in 2015. After taking hold in the north, terrorist groups spread into the east. Today some 40 percent of Burkina Faso is controlled by Islamic terror groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Located on the central plateau, the capital Ouagadougou is gradually being encircled, its critical transit routes imperilled and cut, putting ‘Burkina Faso more than ever at the brink of collapse’ (ADF, 10 Oct).’ 

encircling the capital - 10oct2023.jpg (1536×975)

‘Extremists Threaten to Encircle Burkina Faso’s Capital’ 
Africa Defense Forum (ADF) (10 Oct 2023).


On 2 November, Amnesty International published a report entitled, ‘Death was slowly creeping on us: Living under siege in Burkina Faso.’ The data is shocking. ‘As of July 2023, at least 46 locations in Burkina Faso are under a form of siege by armed groups.’ To establish sieges, terrorists blow-up roads and bridges and destroy telecommunications infrastructure. They also establish checkpoints where civilians – including aid workers – are routinely killed. As of June 2023, some 6,100 schools were closed or rendered non-operational’ – this includes 88 percent of schools in Sahel Region (far north), impacting 127,000 children; and 61 percent of all schools in Est Region (far east), impacting 182,000 students. Further to this, ‘373 health centres were closed across the country due to the conflict’, again, mostly in the north and east. The terrorists also destroy water infrastructure, such as wells and pipelines, and then ration the water. Civilians trying to flee the sieges are killed; women and girls are routinely abducted and abused; while farmers are prohibited from accessing their farmlands. Extortion (‘tax’, in the form of cash and livestock) is rife. Starvation and malnutrition are widespread. 

Despite being 68 pages long, the Amnesty report avoids the issue of religion and makes no mention of the religious persecution of besieged minority Christians. Thanks almost exclusively to Catholic media, RLPB has long been able to shine a light on this horrendous situation (e.g. RLPB 656, Terrorism Generates Christian Crisis, 3 Aug 2022. 

Fr. Pierre Rouamba from Fada N´Gourma.
ACN 22 Aug 2023

On 22 August 2023, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) published an interview with Fr Pierre Rouamba, the prior-general of Missionary Brothers of the Countryside (FMC). He told ACN, ‘I spent Easter in Kompienga [a besieged province in Est region, mentioned in the Amnesty report]…in a very special atmosphere, because this place is isolated from the rest of the world, cut off by mines and checkpoints, which are manned by terrorists. We can only get in by helicopter. Around Pentecost 2023 the terrorists began to target the local population. Many people were killed or seriously injured and had to be air-lifted out. The terrorists have also seized livestock and are doing everything they can to get the population to either convert [to Islam] or evacuate. If people refuse to convert to Islam they are forced to leave, but as the roads are blocked, they are left to wander around in the forest with no possessions, and many die due to lack of food and care.’

Fr Pierre Rouamba told ACN that women are abducted, raped and ‘held as sex-slaves’, only allowed to return home when they are pregnant. He laments the destruction of the once rich social fabric and wonders how Muslim-Christian reconciliation could ever be achieved. ‘Many people have seen their loved ones’ throats slit, beheaded, raped, or be reduced to sexual slavery. Children have been born because of these rapes. When all this is over how will we be able to have a discourse that is consistent with the Gospel? We will have to heal all these wounds, whether physical or psychological. The pastoral work promises to be immense.’ 

However, Fr Rouamba notes, ‘While the terrorists prevent Christians from gathering in churches, families get together in their homes to rekindle the flame of faith through catechism classes and joint celebrations when there are no priests… In Kompienga, under fire from terrorists, requests for baptism are pouring in, and catechism classes are continuing.’ He explains that the mission’s aim ‘is to bring everything back to Jesus Christ himself – joys or sorrows – to bring them back to the Redeemer in thanksgiving, despite the difficulties, which are numerous at the moment. We want to be a sign of Christian hope in the midst of desolation. We are accompanied by Christ, because He Himself went through the suffering that we are going through. For the Christians we accompany, the time perspective does not go beyond the next 24 hours. We do not know if we will survive beyond the next day. This forces us to deepen our personal relationship with Him.’ 


  • protect and sustain Christians living in territories under the control of Islamic terror groups; may the Lord supply their every need, for food and water, fellowship, security and rescue; may the devil have no victory over them; may their faith and love only grow and deepen. May the ‘Father of mercies and God of all comfort’ (2 Corinthians 1:3) hear his children's ‘pleas for mercy … Oh, save your people… Be their shepherd and carry them forever’ (Psalm 28:6,9).
  • protect and sustain the courageous priests, nuns, pastors and other religious workers and Christian leaders who risk their lives to care for believers struggling to survive inside besieged territories. May the Lord, our rock, be their strength and shield (Psalm 28:1,7).

‘But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head’ (Psalm 3:3 ESV).

  • intervene in righteousness, justice, compassion and power to liberate Burkina Faso – and Mali and the wider Sahel – from the grip of Islamic terrorists (Psalm 28:4-5).