The wave of deadly violence on Christians in northern Burkina Faso continues. This past weekend, a new deadly attack on a church killed four worshippers and injured an unknown number of people.
The targeted attacks continue to mirror each other. On Sunday morning around 9 a.m., May 26, eight heavily armed individuals reportedly stormed the town of Toulfe (150 miles northwest of the capital city of Ouagadougou) on four motorcycles. They invaded the church and opened fire, killing three people. A fourth worshiper died later with critical injuries.
“The Christian community of Toulfe was the target of a terrorist attack gathered for Sunday prayers," Ouagadougou Bishop Justin Kientega said in a statement. "The attack left four of the faithful dead.”
Fourth Reported Attack on Christians in 4 Weeks
This is the fourth reported attack on Christians in the West African country in the past month. In late April, gunmen killed a Protestant pastor and five congregants after a church service in northern Burkina. On May 12, a church leader and five parishioners died during a worship service in a church attack in Dablo on May 12. Another four believers died in an attack two days later in the northern town of Ouahigouya.
In the wake of these attacks, our field tells us Christians are in hiding, and schools and churches are closed with thousands of believers fleeing to the south.
While Burkina Faso is not on the 2019 World Watch List, it isn’t far behind at No. 61.
Behind the Attacks
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The government has blamed unnamed terrorist groups operating in the country and Africa’s surrounding Sahel region. Various reports indicate Islamist militants based in Mali, to the north, are using it as a launching pad for attacks on Burkina Faso and neighboring Niger.
Recent months in Burkina Faso have seen extremist violence as Islamic militants expand their reach. According to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the number of violent incidents in the country linked to the local affiliates of al Qaeda and ISIS rose from 24 in 2017 to 136 in 2018.
The string of attacks on churches may be a new tactic to disrupt what have traditionally been peaceful relations between the Muslim majority and Christians who make up a quarter of the nation of 19.2 million people. While Islamic jihadist violence has flared in Burkina Faso since 2016, attacks on churches in the landlocked country are a new phenomenon.
The country’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, noted that terrorists are “changing their modus operandi, from stoking inter-communal conflict to trying to foment religious strife.”
PRAYING WITH the church in BURKINA FASO
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the church is on fire as persecuted believers walk faithfully through the flames of persecution. Please pray that Christians in Burkina Faso and beyond would be filled with God’s peace that surpasses all understanding.
Pray that local Christians would be strengthened in their faith and operate in unity amidst the attacks.
Pray for comfort, strength and provision for victims killed in the attack.
Pray for protection and peace in Burkina Faso and throughout Africa. Ask God to guide national, community and church leaders as they respond to this violence. Pray for wisdom and courage for church leaders as they lead their churches to be light in this increasing darkness.
Open Doors teams have recently visited northern Burkina Faso in the wake of these attacks. Check back here for their firsthand report.