Six of the 29 people killed in the January 15th deadly attack by Islamist militants in Burkina Faso were on a humanitarian trip prompted by their Christian faith, while a seventh was a U.S. missionary who had been running an orphanage and women’s refuge with his wife in the West African country since 2011. Among the dead are four Canadians from the same family who were spending their Christmas break doing aid work in schools and orphanages.
Yves Carrier, his wife Gladys Chamberland, and their two children, Charles-Élie, 19, and Maude, 37, were visiting on behalf of their local church-affiliated group, Le Centre Amitié de Solidarité Internationale de la Région des Appalaches. They and two family friends, Suzanne Bernier and Louis Chabot, left Quebec just before Christmas for an extended trip to work in several remote villages in Burkina Faso.
The group was in the capital, Ouagadougou, at the time of the attack. Charles-Elie and Maude had been due to fly home that evening, and the group had gone out to share a last meal in the capital before the two packed to go to the airport. Their visit was in support of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Meanwhile, victim Michael Riddering, 45, from Florida, had been serving as a Christian missionary in Burkina Faso since 2011, according to his blog, Reach Burkina. During the recent Ebola crisis, his work included comforting families and digging graves.
On Friday, Jan. 15, he was meeting Valentin, a local pastor, at Cappuccino, the café where the attack began. Pastor Valentin, who survived the attack, managed to make a quick call to Riddering’s wife, Amy, to say “Pray,” before the line went dead. She later confirmed via social media that her husband had died during the attack, saying, “Heaven has gained a warrior!”
The American couple had two adult daughters, Hayley and Delaney, in the US, and had adopted two more children from Burkina Faso—a girl, Biba, 15, and a boy, Moise, age four.
Riddering’s mother-in-law, Carol Boyle, described him as a man who was “extremely well-loved and respected … He had his guiding light, and he followed it”.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the jihadist group al-Murabitoun was behind the attacks on two hotels and the café, which were frequented by foreigners, including UN staff and aid workers. Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, said two of the attackers had been identified as women. Three jihadis, including an Arab and two Africans, were killed in the assault on the Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino Café. A fourth extremist was killed at the Yibi Hotel. In a statement released online, the group said that the attack was “a new message from the heroic champions of Islam, with their blood and their bodies, to the slaves of the cross, the occupiers of our homes, the looters of our wealth, and who would undermine our security.”
The Guardian said that the attack was intended to send a message to France and its Operation Barkhane—a 3,000-strong military force spanning five countries, intended to combat Islamist militancy—that the intervention is not working. On the same day as the attack, an Australian doctor and his wife were also kidnapped in Ouagadougou. Ken and Jocelyn Elliot, a Christian couple in their eighties, have been establishing medical facilities in Burkina Faso since the 1970s. They were running a 120-bed clinic in the town of Djibo, close to Mali’s border, at which Dr. Elliot is the only surgeon.
Father of all comfort, it has been with great sadness that we have learned of the death of Michael Riddering and of Yves Carrier and his family and friends. We struggle to understand, but place our trust firmly in Your goodness and power. Bring comfort to their families and continue to give them wisdom and courage as they consider the next steps in the work You have called them to. We pray also for Ken and Jocelyn Elliot, that perhaps even now they have been returned safely to Djibo. Satan would use these attacks to thwart the work of Your church, but You have promised to take everything that happens and use it for good for Your people and Christ’s church. We take heart in that truth. Open the eyes of those who have set their hearts against Christ. Draw them into saving faith that the name of Christ may be exalted in the nation of Burkina Faso. In the name of Jesus who strengthens the weary and brings hope to the hopeless. Amen.