Open Doors worker visits a community in shock and returns with an urgent call for prayer
Burkina Faso is a Muslim-dominated country, with Christians making up roughly 35% of the population. It’s a country that has always been known for peaceful coexistence between different religious and ethnic groups. But now, Muslim extremist violence is on the increase, causing grave concern over the decreasing stability of this country and others across the greater Sahel region of Africa.
The church in Burkina Faso has suffered from seven targeted attacks from February to May 2019, claiming the lives of 23 Christians.
- On February 15th, Father Antonio Cesar Fernandez (72) was killed at Nohao when he and two other priests inadvertently walked into a jihadist attack.
- On February 19th, Pastor Jean Sawadogo (54) from a local church in Tasmakatt was killed on the road between Tasmakatt and Gorom-Gorom.
- On April 23rd, Pastor Elie Zoré, leader of the Assemblies of God Church of Bouloutou, was killed near the town of Arbinda.
- On April 28th, six Christians were killed at a church in Silgadji near Djibo in northern Burkina Faso, including Pastor Pierre Ouedraogo.
- On May 12th, six Christians were killed including a priest, Father Siméon Yampa by between 20 and 30 gunmen who stormed the Catholic Church in Dablo in northern Burkina Faso during mass.
- On May 13th, four Christians were killed in Singa, in the central north as they ended a religious procession.
- On May 26th, four worshipers died as a result of an attack on Toulfe Catholic Church.
At the Assembly of God church in Kaya (pictured below) the Open Doors team met with displaced pastors, their wives and church members who had been forced to flee from northern Burkina. We spent two hours praying, and encouraging them to remain strong despite their situation, reassuring them that they are not alone. The pastors and their wives shared how our presence was very encouraging.
The Open Doors team shared a word of encouragement from the Bible, from Philippians 1:27-30. Despite the circumstances there were also glorious songs of praise and worship to the God of Heaven for sparing the lives of those present, counting them worthy to partake in suffering because of the gospel and their faith.
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30, NIV)
The Rev. Theodore Sawodogo spoke to our team and shared:
“I personally appreciate God almighty for sending you to us when the world has been hard on us. We needed a visit to know that we are not alone in our struggle. This is exactly the fulfilment of the words of Jesus when he said, ‘You visited me when I was in prison’. Our circumstances are a prison now, and your visit is a great encouragement to us. We will forever remain courageous because of this act of love.”
Another pastor who was present, and who narrowly escaped an attack, said, “We left everything we laboured for. We watched some of our colleagues and church members be killed. Life has become so unbearable and we felt all alone in this difficult time. But your presence in the midst of our pain is a huge encouragement to all of us. The prayers offered, the songs of praise, and the love you shared, will remain in our hearts no matter what life brings.”
- Please pray for the Lord’s comfort and grace to be at work in the lives of all who have lost loved ones in the recent attacks and that He would be close to the broken-hearted. Many have been severely traumatized by the deterioration in security and the displacement they suffered. Please pray that the Lord will be at work in their lives to bring healing and comfort.
- Pray that Christians would have the grace to remain firm in the faith as they face increased hostility. Pray that Christians would not be tempted to give in to tribalism and anger towards Muslims, but continue to trust the Lord to fight their cause. Thank the Lord for the hope church leaders display in the midst of the crisis.
- Thank the Lord for the selfless service and the amazing example of all pastors and believers who have opened their homes to the displaced. Pray for the Lord’s continued provision for them all.
- The extremist ideologies sweeping across the Sahel have brought destruction to so many lives. Please pray that the Lord would use these circumstances to display His glory. Pray that the Lord will draw many lost to Himself.
- Please pray that the government would receive wisdom and display accountability as they seek to create order in the affected areas. Pray for all international forces helping in the fight against extremists in the wider region. Pray that they would be able to help bring stability and prevent the spread of violence to Burkina Faso’s neighbors.
- Pray for the Lord’s protection over children who are exposed to trauma and suffering, and who have been forced out of school. Pray that the church would find a way to help the children cope and to continue schooling despite the circumstances. Pray that they would be protected against unhealthy anger and radical ideologies.
- Pray for wisdom and provision for Open Doors as we determine the appropriate response and interventions. Pray for His blessing on all logistics. Pray for the protection over staff as they travel to volatile regions.
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