Tuesday, February 18, 2020

RLPB 537. Burkina Faso: Terror in Yagha

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 537 | 19 Feb 2020
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plus: update from Iran
by Elizabeth Kendal

location of Pansi village,
in Yagha Province, Sahel Region.
 On Sunday 16 February a group of around 20 'armed terrorists' attacked a Protestant church in the north-eastern village of Pansi, close to the border with Niger in Yagha Province in Burkina Faso's volatile northern Sahel Region. The terrorists rode into Pansi on motorbikes and targeted the church, opening fire on believers as the worship service was underway. It was a massacre; at least 10 were killed and 18 wounded. The pastor was among 14 church members who the terrorists abducted and subsequently murdered, bringing the death toll to 24. The militants set fire to the church and forced three abducted youths to help carry looted supplies. Victims were transported to the hospital in the regional capital, Dori, some 180km (110 miles) north-west of Pansi, in neighbouring Seno Province. Seeking safety, traumatised villagers fled to the provincial capital, Sebba, adding to the ever-growing numbers of internally displaced persons.

Pastor Tindano Omar
A week earlier, on Monday evening 10 February, Islamic militants murdered Lankoande Babilibile, a church deacon in Sebba. According to Barnabas Fund, the terrorists then stole Babilibile's car and used it to abduct Pastor Tindano Omar, whom they seized from his Sebba home along with his son, two daughters and two nephews. The bodies of Pastor Omar, his son and two nephews were found on 13 February; his two daughters had been released unharmed. Pastor Tindano Omar is survived by three other children who attend university in another region.

Terror is escalating at an alarming rate in Burkina Faso (BF). In 2018, dozens of troops were killed by roadside bombs and in ambushes that mostly targeted security forces. Since early 2019, however, the militants increasingly have targeted civilians. According to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which collects and analyses conflict information, more than 1,300 civilians - Christians and Muslims - were killed in targeted attacks in 2019. That is more than five times the number of civilians killed in 2018. Furthermore, around half a million people were displaced in 2019, over thirteen times as many as were displaced in 2018. This brings the total number of displaced persons to an estimated 760,000. The gross insecurity has forced the closure of around 95 healthcare centres and some 2,000 schools - mostly in the lawless east. More than 1.2 million Burkinabes are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Unsurprisingly, demonstrations and riots have erupted across the country - especially in the capital Ouagadougou – protesting about escalating hardship and the government's failure to guarantee security. Religious Liberty Monitoring (RLM) is not alone is suspecting that the escalating insecurity and civil unrest is directly linked to the presidential and parliamentary elections and constitutional referendum scheduled for November 2020 [see: RLM, May 2019 and UN Global Dispatches, Jan 2020]. Many suspect that opposition elements - in particular the affiliates and party of exiled former president Blaise Compaoré (the Congress for Democracy and Progress), and indeed Blaise Compaoré himself - are fuelling the insecurity for political gain. It is a familiar scenario: opposition elements fuel conflict which they then blame on the government while proffering themselves as potential saviours. If this is what is happening, then violence is destined to escalate.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)
from dashboard, Burkina Faso

According to Operation World (2010), BF is 52 percent Muslim, 26 percent ethno-religionist, and 21 percent Christian (mostly Catholic). Despite being majority Muslim, BF has a long tradition of peaceful co-existence and religious freedom; it also has a democratically elected Christian president: Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.  The Battle for Burkina Faso has begun!


* comfort those who mourn, grieve and tremble; heal those who are wounded in body, mind and/or spirit; and provide the needs of all who look to him in faith or even just in desperation.

* be a shield, defender, strong tower and refuge (Psalm 18:2), and guiding good shepherd (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11) to his Church.

* be an awakening and revealing light to Muslims and others who are struggling in darkness (John 8:12); and a consuming fire to those who would bring bloodshed, suffering, repression and evil to Burkina Faso (Isaiah 40:10; 59:14-19).

* hear our prayers and grace the government of Burkina Faso - and especially President Kaboré - with all the wisdom and insight, conviction and courage, as well as the international support and assistance they need to turn back the battle (Isaiah 28:5-6) in Burkina Faso, so that peace will be restored and liberty preserved.

'Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfil his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.' (Psalm 138:7-8 ESV)


On Sunday 16 February around 20 armed terrorists attacked a Protestant church in Burkina Faso's northern Yagha Province, killing at least 24 and wounding 18. They torched the church and kidnapped three youths, whom they forced to carry looted supplies. On Monday 10 February terrorists murdered a church deacon in the provincial capital, Sebba, and stole his car. They then abducted Pastor Tindano Omar along with his son, two daughters and two nephews. The bodies of the men were found on 13 February; the daughters were unharmed. More than 1300 civilians were killed in Islamic terrorist violence in 2019, more than five times that of 2018. Elections are due in November 2020. Many suspect that opposition elements are fuelling the violence for political gain, meaning terror will escalate. Please pray.



Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammedi (21)
Updating last week's RLPB 536 (12 Feb). The condition and whereabouts of Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi (21), arrested in early January, are now known. Mary was severely beaten upon her arrest and horribly mistreated during interrogations. She is now incarcerated in Qarchak Prison. Located in a desert just south of Tehran, and with only 600 beds for over 2000 prisoners, Qarchak is regarded as the worst prison in Iran for women. It is one of two Iranian prisons sanctioned by the US for 'gross human rights violations'. Though her family has raised the bail (30 million tomans, equivalent to a year's wages) the court has not yet agreed to release her. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com