In the last week, ten Christians have been killed in northern Burkina Faso in two separate attacks. The violence has unnerved Christian communities in the region and many have fled.
On Monday 13 May, four Catholics were executed by armed attackers. The church members were bringing a statue of Mary back to their parish that had been used in a religious procession when armed men reportedly intercepted them. They let the children who were there go before killing the four adults and destroying the statue.
One day earlier between 20-30 armed men stormed a Catholic church in the same region and opened fire on the worshippers. Six people were killed in the attack, among them 34-year-old Reverend Siméon Yampa. The attackers then burned down the church, shops and a health center.
On top of this, there have been three other attacks in Burkina Faso over the last five weeks.
The increased insecurity in the area has caused churches and schools to close, Christians are in hiding and some have started to flee to safer towns in the south. Those who remain are living in what is rapidly feeling more and more like a ghost town.
A local church leader who asked to be unnamed for security reasons told Open Doors: "Christians are in hiding. No one dares to sleep in his house because of the fear of being killed. It's very hard for us. We need your prayers."
Burkina Faso has long been known for the peaceful co-existence between different religious communities but the country has seen a rise in attacks by Islamist militants following the removal of long-time ruler, Blaise Compaoré in 2014.
Home-grown militant groups and extremists with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State have been in the country's north (bordering Mali) since 2016. Recently they have expanded into the east and southwest, threatening the stability of neighbouring countries.
Violence against Christians has risen dramatically in Burkina Faso this year. In the last 12 months, the increasing violence across Mali and Niger, as well as Burkina Faso, has led to a five-fold rise in the displacement of the local population. More than 330,000 people have left their homes.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, there has been a staggering 7,000 per cent increase in fatalities in Burkina Faso compared to the same period last year. There has also been a 300 per cent increase in fatalities in neighbouring Mali and 500 per cent in Niger.
UN Secretary General António Guterres has rightly condemned the attack.
"Houses of worship should be havens, not targets," he said.
In a statement he urged, "All citizens of Burkina Faso to stand firmly with one another across communities and not to succumb to efforts to sow discord and breed further violence."
Burkina Faso sits just outside the Open Doors World Watch List – the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. It is categorised as having high levels of persecution and is on Open Doors' list of Persecution Watch countries.
Pray for the Christians there, that they may be free to practise their faith in peace and without fear.
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