How many Christians are there in Burkina Faso?
There are 5.3 million Christians in Burkina Faso, from a total population of 22.7 million.
How are Christians persecuted in Burkina Faso?
Thanks to ongoing political instability, the impact of Islamic militant groups has remained steady over the last several years. There were two military coups in 2022, which contributed to civilian deaths, but the number of faith-related violent incidents decreased in 2023, though the danger has not truly subsided. The country has one of the world's most severe displacement crises – with many Christians among the displaced – and the military government has faced accusations of war crimes. With this backdrop, Christians attempting to follow Jesus in Burkina Faso must try to do so without any sense of security or safety, even in places where Islamic militants were previously unable to reach.
Burkina Faso used to be the epitome of religious cohesion, but Islamic militant influence has managed to erode much of the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians. Now, in addition to facing violence and threats from Islamic extremists, Christian converts from Islam face increasing pressure and sometimes even threats from their families and communities, simply because they follow Jesus. These believers sometimes have become afraid to share their faith in public because they could be rejected by their families. They also know their communities could try to force them to renounce their faith in Christ.
“We were constantly surrounded by guns. They would kill you if you didn’t perform the Muslim prayers.” habiba was abducted by islamic extremists
What’s life like for Christians in Burkina Faso?
Habiba* was only 13 years old when she was kidnapped by Islamic militants in Burkina Faso. “We started to hear motorbikes and gunshots coming towards our house. They told us to go inside the church so they could burn us alive. But some of them didn’t agree with the idea and they decided to kidnap us instead,” Habiba shares. Habiba, her younger sister, her mother Minata* and several other women were taken as prisoners deep into the forest.
“They divided us into groups,” she remembers. “Some of the other women who came with us were killed and some of us were left alive.” Habiba was separated from her mother and her sister and placed with some other women from her village. “I was just waiting for my death. All I could think of was the moment they would decide to kill me. I was really frightened.”
There, in the camp, Habiba secretly held on to God. “All the men were Muslim, so they didn’t allow us to pray to God. They would kill you if they saw you praying. If you were discovered singing or clapping your hands, you were dead. They forced us to perform the Muslim prayers and read the Quran. We were constantly surrounded by guns. They would kill you if you didn’t perform the Muslim prayers.”
The women lived in the camp for three years. They were forced to convert to Islam and suffered daily physical abuse, as well as being traumatised by witnessing the most unimaginably horrific acts of violence.
After a while, Habiba was forced to marry one of the militants and repeatedly raped. Habiba felt alone and hopeless. “I told myself that God had indeed abandoned me. I had totally lost all hope. I was just waiting for my turn to be killed.” But Habiba still spoke to God, even while in despair. “In my heart, I still talked to God when I performed the Muslim prayers. And even though I was forbidden to sing, I had many songs in my mind that wouldn’t leave me. I remember one that says that in the lions’ den God showed His power. That impacted me because we were in the lion’s den.”
Eventually, Habiba was reunited with her mother and sister and they decided to try to escape. “We left the camp at night when our guardians were already asleep,” says Habiba. “We walked only during the dead of night and, in the daytime, we hid in the bushes. Finally, after five days, we reached a town called Déou. We got a van that took us to Ouagadougou. We couldn’t believe it. We thought we would never get home safely.”
It’s been a few years since their courageous escape, but Habiba still suffers from the abuse she endured at the hands of the militants. “Sometimes I have nightmares and I can’t sleep. I dream that I am still there and that they are chasing me and trying to kill me. Every time I hear a gunshot all the memories come back to me. It’s not easy to forget.”
Thanks to your help, Open Doors can journey with these women and many others to bring healing through trauma care, helping them to see God at work in their lives and bringing relief for their immediate needs.
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Burkina Faso?
Burkina Faso has risen several places on the World Watch List, and pressure is worsening in private, community and national spheres of life. The scope for religious freedom for Christians is contracting as jihadist ideologies gain traction and expand within the broader community. Violence remains very high in the country: at least 31 Christians were killed and many churches destroyed by the activities of jihadist groups. The situation in Burkina Faso is intricately connected to the broader jihadist movements across the expansive Sahel region.
How can I help Christians in Burkina Faso?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local partners to strengthen Christians in Burkina Faso by providing persecution survival training, relief aid, and spiritual and trauma care.
Heavenly Father, we ask You to be with and comfort our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso. They have endured so much violence over the last several years, and the pain they've felt seems impossible to heal from, impossible to have hope. We ask that Your comfort and peace – which we know only You can bring – will come to Your children in Burkina Faso. Please help them endure. We also ask for a miracle: please change the hearts of the Islamic militants who attack Your people. Amen.