Written by: Barnabas Fund
Article Source: JOY! Magazine
“There is no Christian anymore in this town,” came the WhatsApp message to Barnabas Fund from a Christian in Burkina Faso on 10 June. Nineteen Christians had been killed the previous day in the Arbinda district and the entire remaining Christian population had fled.
Christians in northern Burkina Faso are facing a spate of murderous attacks by Islamist militants.
Pastor Jean*, martyred in the Silgadji attack, chose to stay in Silgadji, despite a ‘vision’ in which he felt in “imminent danger”
At least 49 Christians have died in six attacks since 28 April. The city of Kaya alone sheltered 82 pastors and 1145 Christians from 151 households, displaced from various parts of the north. In many cases it is men who have been killed, leaving widows and fatherless children without a protector and breadwinner.
Risking everything for Jesus
Elderly pastor Jean*, his son, and son-in-law were executed alongside three other members of his congregation in the first attack in Silgadji on Sunday 28 April. They were rounded up in the courtyard of the church by the Islamist gunmen and ordered to deny their faith and convert to Islam. When they refused, they were taken one-by-one behind a building where they were shot in cold blood.
Pastor preferred to die for his faith than leave congregation
Before his death, 80-year-old Jean* had experienced a ‘vision’ in which he felt he was in ‘imminent danger’. But the pastor preferred to “die for his faith rather than leave the village where he has served for nearly 40 years,” his family said. Jean’s* wife, as well as his surviving six children and grandchildren, left everything behind and fled after the attack to the city of Kongougou. They were among 100 Christians from the area to take refuge in the city.
Gunmen targeting Christians
The second atrocity happened on 12 May in Dablo. As with many of the attacks, it was a Sunday and the gunmen arrived on motorbikes. Between 20 to 30 terrorists stormed into the church where a service was taking place. They herded the pastor and five church leaders together and shot them, before setting fire to the church and looting a health centre in the village.
Gunmen slaughtered families who hid Christians
The following day they struck again, shooting dead four Christians taking part in a church parade in Zimtenga. On 26 May, a heavily armed gang struck in the town of Toulfe, 240 km north-west of the capital Ouagadougou, while the congregation worshipped, killing four people. Then came the slaughter of 19 Christians in Arbinda on 9 June, and the slaying of another ten in nearby Namentenga province the next day. “It’s proven they were looking for Christians,” said our contact in Arbinda. “Families who hide Christians are killed.”
A traumatised widow fled Arbinda with her now fatherless children
Islamist violence escalating in Burkina Faso
Muslims form the largest group in the population of Burkina Faso, with substantial minorities of Christians and followers of traditional African religions. The impoverished West African nation has a history of generally peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims. Islamist violence against churches and schools was unknown in Burkina Faso until 2015, but has escalated causing hundreds of schools and scores of churches to be closed down. “These terrorist groups are now attacking religion with the macabre aim of dividing us,” said a government statement in May.
“Pray for me to keep faith because we may die shortly”
Our brothers and sisters in northern Burkina Faso are asking for prayer support. “Pray for me to keep the faith because we know we may die very shortly,” said one. “I know you are praying for the nations in difficulties, including Burkina Faso. Please continue to do so,” said another.
Gifts will provide food and medicines
As displaced people, they have no way to support themselves in a very poor country where 80% of people rely on subsistence agriculture. Your gift to Barnabas Fund will help us to continue to provide food, medical, or other basic needs for displaced Christians, especially widows, fatherless children, and orphans. A pastor who fled the terrorist attacks said, “We are alive but without anything unless given by someone else. We don’t have money, nor food, nor land. We are desperate and we need help.”
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Date published: 14/09/2019
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