By Thomas Kemper
February 18, 2020 | ATLANTA
The people of the West African country of Burkina Faso need our prayers as they face waves of violence, such as the February 16 attack in Pansi, a village in Yagha province, that killed at least 24 people at a Christian church. Another 18 were wounded, according to government reports cited by The Guardian, a British newspaper. The unnamed pastor of the congregation, identified as Protestant, was killed.
This is not the first time that Christians, and sometimes Muslims, have been targeted by what the international press calls a “jihadist insurgency” moving across the northern part of the landlocked country of some 20 million people. The Guardian reported that “Since 2015, about 750 people have been killed and about 600,000 people have been forced from their homes. Christians have become frequent targets in the north of the country.”
Burkina Faso, the former French colony of Upper Volta, is about 60 percent Muslim and 23 percent Christian, with a range of indigenous faiths. A majority of the Christians are Roman Catholic, with four to five percent Protestant. The main ethnic and language group – 50 percent of the population – is Mossi.
I join faith leaders on the international level who have condemned the violence and called for prayer on behalf of all those affected. In responding to a previous attack that killed 14 at an Advent worship service, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, said: “It is an attack on our one human family when people cannot gather to worship without fearing for their lives. We extend condolences to those who lost loved ones, to those living in fear and who suffer under the lack of freedom of religion, and to the many people displaced because they are in imminent and constant danger.”
Thomas Kemper is the general secretary of Global Ministries.