Burkina Faso (MNN) — The UN says conflict in Africa’s Sahel region is “unprecedented.” More than five million people throughout West Africa need urgent help. Nearly a half-million people have been internally displaced in Burkina Faso alone.
Islamic terrorism and tribal conflict drive the region’s unrest. Spokesman Greg Musselman says Voice of the Martyrs Canada is increasing their efforts in Burkina Faso as persecution continues to rise.
Rising regional unrest
Specific definitions vary, but the UN organizes 16 nations into the West Africa region. The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations classifies crisis in two nations – Nigeria and Mali – as either “worsening” or “unchanging”.
Nigeria’s Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has been growing in power and reach since 2009. Read our extensive coverage here. Today, Nigeria faces threats on three fronts: Boko Haram, the Islamic State, and Fulani herdsmen. Mali’s situation has grown increasingly worse since 2015; Open Doors USA places Mali at #24 on this year’s World Watch List.
As noted here, Islamic terrorism and tribal conflict are behind the latest spike in regional unrest. Refugees escaping violence in Nigeria or Mali flee to neighboring countries, only to encounter scarce resources or new threats.
Take Burkina Faso, for example.
Persecution in Burkina Faso
According to the UN, between 23- and 31,000 people sought refuge in Burkina Faso when violence erupted in Mali. Now, they might be on the move again.
Mali’s terrorism crept into Burkina Faso in 2015. Extremist violence hit a new high this year. In fact, there have already been twice as many attacks compared to 2018’s total. Both Christians and Muslims are suffering; violence over the weekend targeted a mosque in northern Burkina Faso.
“It (Burkina Faso) really was not on our radar in terms of [the] persecution of Christians,” Musselman says.
“A lot of our attention had been in Nigeria and Eastern Africa. But, because of the spread of the militant Islamic groups… [extremism is rising] in Burkina Faso because it neighbors with some of these other countries.”
Believers suffered significant loss earlier this year when armed gunmen attacked four different churches within four weeks. Four Christians were killed in August simply for wearing crosses, and last month, militants told people to either convert to Islam or leave. Nearly 2,000 villagers were forced to flee, but Musselman says there’s a silver lining.
“We should be encouraged as Christians [because] many of these believers are refusing to become Muslim. They could convert and stay in their homes,” he says.
“But, rather than deny Jesus or the Christian faith, they choose to leave the area.”
How to help
Now that you know, would you add this situation to your prayer list? Pray VOM Canada will find ways to help persecuted believers in Burkina Faso. “Burkina Faso is quickly moving up the list [as] a nation that we really need to be involved in,” Musselman says.
“The most important thing right now is… to be praying for the safety of these Christians, and that organizations working with these folks would have the resources they need.”
You can also help by telling others about the crisis in West Africa. Use ‘Share’ buttons below to spread the word on social media, or send your friends a link to this story through Whatsapp or email.
Header image depicts a group of internally-displaced people within Burkina Faso. © UNHCR/Romain Desclous