One week after devastating massacres in Sri Lankan churches, Christians in Burkina Faso were killed by Islamists while attending an Assemblies of God church. Two weeks later, a Catholic church was similarly attacked.
These were the first direct attacks on churches in the historically religiously tolerant African nation. But in the last two years, waves of violence and terrorism has created a humanitarian crisis. Terrorism by extremists and home-grown Islamists spiked in Burkina Faso from 33 attacks in 2017 to 158 reported attacks in 2018.
As violence grew, Pastor Pierre Ouedraogo refused to leave. He told relatives he “would rather die for his faith than leave the community he has been serving for about 40 years,” a source told World Watch Monitor.
On April 28, Pastor Pierre Ouedraogo was talking with church members outside their Assemblies of God church. A dozen gunmen on motorbikes arrived and told the Christians to convert to Islam. They refused.
The Islamists took the Christians’ Bibles and phones, and ordered them to gather under a tree. They called the Christians one at a time behind the church, then shot them. Six were killed, including the pastor. Another was seriously injured.
The gunmen burned the church and two motorbikes, and stole rice and sheep from the pastor’s house. Their funerals were attended by Christians and Muslims.
On May 12, Christians were leaving a Catholic church when about 20 gunmen opened fire. They fatally shot 6 people, including a priest. They burned the church and looted nearby stores.
Henri Yé, president of the Federation of Evangelical Churches and Missions in Burkina Faso, guided Christians on how to pray:
“In the face of blind hatred, let us ask God to give us the strength to spread love, which makes us the children of God. The unity of the Body of Christ and of the whole nation must be preserved at all costs.”
He asked “Christians organizations to be involved in the search for peace, through prayers and training of Bukinabe youth, in order to involve all sections of the population in the quest for social cohesion and better communal living.”
(Photo: FEME) FEME President, pastor Henri Yé, speaks at a press conference.