On Wednesday, August 31, Theophile Nare, the bishop of the local diocese of Kaya reported: “To all, that with great joy and gratitude to God, Sister Suellen has been released by her kidnappers. She is currently in a safe place and in good health.” He added, “At the moment we do not have information on the conditions of her release. We are deeply grateful to all those who worked for it.”
Tennyson, a missionary in northern Burkina Faso for almost 10 years, was kidnapped from her home in Yalgo by 10 armed gunmen in the middle of the night on April 5.
The nun’s kidnappers were not identified, and no group claimed responsibility after the abduction. Yet for the last few years, jihadist groups—some with ties to al Qaeda and Islamic State—have repeatedly attacked and kidnapped church leaders and Christians in the northern regions of Burkina Faso, No. 32 on Open Doors’ World Watch List.
Since 2014, Tennyson, originally from New Orleans, has served in the Yalgo community. Her work was so vital that people walk 50 miles for treatment at the clinic where she serves. Despite the country’s deteriorating security situation, she was adamant about staying in Burkina Faso to treat children in the area where malaria is surging.
A nation in crisis
Nationwide, Burkina Faso is a country in crisis. In January, a military coup pushed aside the president here in Burkina Faso, and Islamic militancy is gaining ground. The country is in upheaval and Christians like Tennyson are often caught in the crossfire without security or protection against extremist groups.
Over the last two years, jihadists have increased their forces and the intensity of their violent attacks—burning churches, abducting Christian women and children, raiding villages and targeting pastors.
Open Doors recently talked with a church leader in northern Burkina Faso who shared about the situation. Pastor Aaron serves a community in northern Burkina Faso.
“We never wished for persecution to come, but still it came,” he says, focusing on the insurgency that has displaced more than 1.9 million people. “Only God is our security here. We must keep our faith in God to survive. But be ready for when persecution comes, it can come fast, as it did here. Be ready and be strong.
Please pray that God will allow us to be free to practice our faith here. Because of extremist attacks and violence, we are not safe or secure.”