John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera: Remembering the Christian Martyrs of Burkina Faso

A church in Burkina Faso. The recent kidnappings of two Christian church leaders has created an atmosphere of anxiety among Christian communities in the northeastern part of the country. | (Photo: Khym54 via Flickr)

On Sunday May 12th, between 20 and 30 gunmen entered a Catholic church during Mass in Dablo, Burkina Faso, and started shooting the congregation. Six people, including Father Simeon Yampa, were killed. The attackers then set fire to the church with some worshipers still inside.

Probably 95 percent of Americans couldn’t find Burkina Faso on a map. But that doesn’t make what’s happening to Christians there any less serious or any less deserving of our attention.

In fact, this was the second such attack on a church in the region in two weeks. The Sunday after Easter, “gunmen on motorbikes” attacked a Pentecostal church in a neighboring province, killing the pastor, Pierre Ouédraogo and five worshipers.

Burkina Faso, which was called Upper Volta until 1984, was not a particularly dangerous place for Christians until just a few years ago. While Christians are only a quarter of the population, the country, unlike other Muslim-majority nations, hasn’t been ranked on lists like Open Door’s.

As The Christian Post put it, “Although Burkina Faso is a majority-Muslim country . . . religious groups have largely coexisted peacefully there.”

These recent attacks owe their origins to neighboring Mali, a nation that is on the Open Doors list. Since 2012, Mali has been locked in a series of conflicts pitting the central government against Islamist and Islamist-backed forces.

Even after the initial conflict was put down by the French military, jihadis have continued to operate in Mali, which has been characterized as “fragile,” with “… weak state legitimacy leaving citizens vulnerable to a range of shocks.” In this case, the violence in Mali has spilled over into Burkina Faso in the form of Islamist attacks on not only Christians but also those deemed insufficiently Muslim.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera