Burkina Faso has around 60% Muslims, 30% Christians and 10% followers of traditional African religions. Until a few years ago, the various religions lived in peace together, despite political instability and military coups.
The rise of extremist Islam, from 2015, has caused devastation, destroyed agriculture and displaced more than one million people. This, together with recurring drought and famine and the Covid pandemic in 2020, has plunged the already-poor landlocked country into a humanitarian crisis.
A spate of Islamist militant attacks targeting Christians began in April 2019, and claimed at least 162 Christian lives by the end of the year. In one attack, the jihadists warned, “Flee, convert or die.” Anti-Christian jihadi violence continued in 2020 and by the middle of February that year, the death toll had already reached at least 48. Christians were amongst at least 58 people killed in three attacks within 48 hours in May.
The Christian victims of Islamist violence in Burkina Faso tend to be the men of the community, but on 1 August 2020 it was mainly children who died when a cart they were travelling in rolled over an improvised explosive device, killing six people. The children were on their way home from grazing their families’ livestock.
Christians are sometimes persecuted by followers of traditional African religions. Eleven church buildings were damaged or destroyed by members of the Gan tribe during a three-day attack in April 2020 in Loropeni town. The attacks were thought to be revenge for the arrests of eight Gan people who had desecrated the grave of a recently deceased Gan Christian. The group had tried to exhume the deacon’s wife in order to impose a “traditional funeral ceremony” (i.e. an animist funeral).
Pray for the protection of Christians facing jihadi attacks. Ask that the extremists will turn from violence and come to know the Prince of Peace. Pray that Christians’ faith will remain steadfast, the needs of the displaced will be met and the bereaved will know God’s comfort.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet
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