Mirroring the April 28 attack in which gunmen executed a pastor and five congregants after a worship service in Burkina Faso, another attack on a different church in the country has also left six Christians dead, including its young priest (above photo). The recent (May 12) attack marks the third on Christians in less than five weeks in the West African country that continues to struggle with a surge of Islamic militant violence.
At about 9 a.m. during a church service in the village of Dablo, armed gunmen on motorcycles, said to number between 20 and 30, ambushed the church. Dablo Mayor Ousmane Zongo told AFP news agency: “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.”
The attackers then set fire to the church and other area buildings in the village, including a health center.
Those killed include 33-year-old Father Simeon Yampa—described as a “humble, obedient and full of love”—and church elders.
A local journalist told the BBC that residents were angry that soldiers in a nearby base did not respond promptly.
The attack has Dablo residents living in a state of panic and fear, Zongo told the BBC. “People are holed up in their homes, nothing is going on. The shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town,” he said.
New Jihadist Tactics
It is not yet clear who is behind the attack. However, Islamist jihadists violence has flared in Burkina Faso since 2016.
Yet attacks on churches in the landlocked country are a new phenomenon. Jihadists have mainly targeted soldiers and teachers in bordering Mali (No. 24 on the World Watch List). While Burkina Faso is not on the 2019 World Watch List, it isn’t far behind at No. 61.
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 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.”
The attack closely follows another in Silgadji in which the pastor and five other congregants were asked to convert to Islam. When they refused, they were executed. In mid-February, a Spanish priest and four customs officers were killed in a jihadist attack in eastern Burkina Faso. There is still no news of the whereabouts of Father Joël Yougbaré, who disappeared two months ago on Sunday, March 17. And Almost a year ago, a pastor from another Assemblies of God church in the same province, and some of his relatives were kidnapped.
Known for its tolerance and secularism, Burkina Faso is predominantly Muslim but has a relatively large Christian population (about 23 percent).
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, reported fatalities from attacks targeting civilians have risen by 300 percent in Mali, 500 percent in Niger, and a staggering 7,000 percent in Burkina Faso compared to the same period last year.
Praying with Burkina Faso Believers
Please pray that Christians in Burkina Faso 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. 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.
Top photo: Father Simeon Yampa (credit: Catholic Diocese of Kaya Burkina Faso)