Relatives of an ambush last week voiced anger at what appears to be unchecked extremist activity. The scope of the attack and the death toll of over 70 are finally making a blip in international news media.
Extremism isn’t new to Christians, though. They know what it means to be in the crosshairs; four deadly attacks hit within four weeks this spring. One of the attacks cost Sirgardji’s Pastor Pierre Ouedraogo his life on April 28.
Illia Djadi serves with Open Doors and recently visited Pastor Quedraogo’s widow. “She’s still traumatized. She said, ‘I wonder why such a barbaric act occurred to people whose only crime is to pray and worship the Lord?’” The family fled to a more central town and took up residence in an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp with thousands of other Christians.
They are not alone. International Christian Concern notes that on more than one occasion, the terrorists singled out and killed Christians during the attacks. This year, increasing violence in this region led to a wave of displacement. More than 330,000 people have left their homes, in addition to 100,000 refugees.
Extremism worsens crisis
Cries for help seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Government efforts haven’t been enough to stop the violence, and international media isn’t paying attention.
The risk is that terror networks have been using Burkina Faso as an incubator for the homegrown terror groups right under our noses. “If you look at the map, you’ll see Burkina Faso is very central. If, eventually, Burkina Faso falls, what will happen? The other countries down south will be deeply affected: Northern Benin, Northern Togo, and Northern Ghana, and Ivory Coast.”
Burkina Faso borders Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast. Djadi explains, “Now we have a major crisis because what used to be kind of cross border terrorist attack terrorist group based in Mali, attacking, crossing the border and attacking in Burkina Faso. But now we have terrorist groups or militants operating from inside from Burkina Faso. They are from Burkina Faso.”
The countries in the Sahel area, which include Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, are among the poorest in the world, Djadi says. “They are very fragile, and this terrorist crisis, these terrorist attacks are making them more vulnerable.”
But vulnerable to what? According to Djadi, “All the ingredients of major humanitarian crises are now there. We can see there’s a good reason to be concerned. There’s a good reason here to say, ‘if we don’t act promptly and efficiently, we may see the repetition of a different scenario we have seen elsewhere.”
What’s more, he says churches in that area are very fragile. “They are overwhelmed. They are not prepared to address this kind of issue. So they need assistance. They need support from churches in the US and elsewhere. So, pray for the Christians. Pray for them, but also support them.”
Find your place in the story
Pray for the indigenous Church to continue to grow both in influence and as a missions-sending body. Pray that believers won’t be intimidated into silence. A heart change begins with the Gospel, and now, more than ever, the Church wants to see one. “They are Burkinabe young people, radicalized and now operating and attacking people and Christians and other targets like schools and military facilities as well, in Burkina Faso.”
The first step is to familiarize yourself with the area as you begin praying. Get to know some of the significant issues with which the region struggles, suggests Djadi. “If you look at the map, you’ll see Burkina Faso is very central. If, eventually, Burkina Faso falls, what will happen? The other countries down south will be deeply affected: Northern Benin, Northern Togo, and Northern Ghana, and Ivory Coast.” Then ask God to empower His people, to encourage them with the strength to speak the Gospel, and to resource them with the grace to do.
An outdoor church outside a home in western Burkina Faso. It is not connected to the 28 April violence. (Headline Photo: CIF Action via Flickr; CC 2.0)