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Terror attack on Burkina Faso church part of a bigger wave of anti-Christian campaign

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A total of 41 Christians have been killed this year in violent attacks. And although the violence does not exclusively affect Christians, who make up 25% of the population, they are being specifically targeted.

The latest attack brings the number of Christians known to have been killed in jihadist attacks to at least 41 since the beginning of the year. An unknown number of pastors and their families have been abducted.

“We don’t know who the attackers are,” says Pastor Samuel Sawadogo, who cares for displaced Christians in the city of Kaya. “All we know is that they attack Christians. We are troubled and filled with pain over the deaths of our family members.”

As a result, Burkina Faso is confronted with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, says Illia Djadi, Open Doors’ Senior Analyst on West Africa. Djadi added:

“People are living in fear. The northern parts of the country have fallen into the hands of several Islamic militants and they have created a space that seems to be operating like an Islamic state. There are severe punishments for behaviour they regard as sinful.”

Muslim extremists have been expelling Christians from their villages in the north of the country. Pastors and church members have been forced to move further south, to the centre of the country or the capital, Ouagadougou. They live in IDP camps or are hosted by family and friends.

Illia Djadi said that these attacks are motivated by a number of issues, not all of them religious:

“Many factors, including political, economic, tribal and religious, fuel violence in Burkina Faso. It has become vulnerable to the instability that plagues the greater Sahel region. A number of Islamic terrorist groups have easy access to Burkina Faso from their bases in neighbouring Mali.”

Djadi adds that when President Blaise Compaoré’s 27-year rule ended in 2014, it created a power vacuum in which the extremists flourished. They have exploited ethnic, social and economic divides. All this has encouraged the spread of radical Islamic ideology across the country.

Open Doors helps Christians deal with the realities they face under radical Islamic ideologies in West Africa, something that has been growing rapidly.

The charity has been running integrated programs in West African countries to help Christians, including persecution preparedness training, discipleship training, economic empowerment, leadership training and trauma care.