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Burkina Faso: Church Targeted For Terror


Date:  May 8, 2019

also: Remember the Captives

by Elizabeth Kendal

Burkina Faso is 52 percent Muslim, 26 percent ethno-religionist and 21 percent Christian (11.5 percent Catholic; 8.5 percent Protestant). While it might be landlocked and poor, it has long a history of religious harmony and openness. In October 2014 the long-time Islamist dictator Blaise Compaore - president since seizing power in a coup in 1987 - stepped down from the presidency in response to popular protests. In November 2015 Roch Marc Christian Kabore (a 'devout Catholic') was democratically elected as president. Today, both al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) have Burkina Faso (BF) in their sights. Islamic terror first struck BF on 15 January 2016. Since then, there have been more than 230 militant attacks. More than 65 people died in militant attacks in April 2019 alone. On 31 December 2018, after a surge in terror attacks and high profile abductions, President Kabore declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali.

On 18 January, after months of spiralling insecurity, Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba resigned, along with his entire cabinet. Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire has since been appointed Prime Minister. Compounding the crisis, attacks are no longer confined to the capital, Ouagadougou, and the far north. Exploiting the insecurity, criminals, ethnic militants and terrorist groups are also escalating their activity in the east and south-west. More than 150,000 people have been displaced since July 2018. In the regions most effected by violence, 1111 out of 2869 schools have closed, affecting the education of more than 150,000 children. The country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. 

On Sunday 28 April around a dozen gunmen on six or seven motorcycles attacked an Assemblies of God church in Sirgadji village in north-eastern Soum province, which is under a state of emergency. They swept in at around 1pm, firing their weapons in the air, as believers were mingling in the grounds after the worship service. A local community leader told World Watch Monitor that the assailants asked the Christians to convert to Islam, but they refused. After seizing and burning their Bibles and mobile phones, the gunmen took their captives behind the church building, one by one, and shot them dead. Martyred were Pastor Pierre Ouedraogo (80), his son Wend-Kuni and brother-in-law Zoeyande Sawadogo (a deacon) and church members Sayouba and Arouna Sawadogo, and Elie Boena. Before leaving, the militants set fire to the church and stole supplies from the pastor's house. Pastor Ouedraogo is survived by his wife and another six children. His relatives had advised him to leave the area, but he had refused, saying he 'would rather die for his faith than leave the community he has been serving for about 40 years'. The day after the massacre, the gunmen - described by locals as 'young men who have been radicalised' - returned in search of more Christians. More than 100 Christians have fled the area; remnant Christians and local Muslims are grieving together. 

This was the country's first terror attack to target the Church directly.

Possibly inspired by the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, it comes as Islamic State (IS) leader, Abu Bakr al al-Baghdadi (47), reiterates IS's intention to target 'crusaders' (Christians and Westerners) to avenge the Caliphate's territorial losses in Iraq and Syria. For quite some time now, IS has been encouraging its supporters to unleash terror in their homelands. In a propaganda video released on 29 April, al-Baghdadi commends the terror attacks in Sri Lanka and accepts pledges of allegiance from groups in West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali). While no-one has claimed responsibility for the Sirgadji church massacre, it is very likely that the gunmen were IS supporters. 


* grace President Kabore and all those in authority in Burkina Faso with wisdom, strength and all the international support they need to tackle Islamic radicalisation, defeat the Islamic jihadists and restore peace and security. 

'The nations [or in this case Islamic jihadists] roar like the roaring of many waters, but he [God your Saviour] will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm.' (from Isaiah 17:12-14 ESV) 

* redeem all suffering to advance the Kingdom of God; may the seeds of the Gospel, sown in love and now watered with tears, take root and grow as Jesus Christ continues to build his Church in Burkina Faso. 

* protect, preserve, sustain, comfort and bless his precious Church in Burkina Faso, that she might continue to grow and be a blessing to the nation. 

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