How many Christians are there in Burkina Faso?
Around a quarter of people in Burkina Faso are Christians – just over 5 million from a population of 21.5 million.
How are Christians persecuted in Burkina Faso?
Burkina Faso is located in a region where Islamist groups have a huge and growing influence. The central government is very weak, particular in the east of the country where Islamic law is informally implemented by groups who've gained control over these areas.
Jihadist violence has been rapidly increasing in recent years, and extremists have exploited the government's weakness during the Covid-19 crisis to gain control of the country’s infrastructure. This has led to hundreds of church closures - while many Christians are among those who've fled their homes because of extremist attacks. There are over a million internally displaced people in Burkina Faso, many of whom are Christians.
Believers who've converted from Islam face the most persecution. Family and community members often reject them and try to force them to renounce their Christian faith. Many are afraid to express their faith in public because of such threats.
Christian women and girls often face sexual violence, which is used by Islamic militants as a method of attacking a wider Christian community. These extremists might also force a Christian woman or girl into marriage. Christian men and boys can be targeted both for recruitment by Islamic militant groups, as well as physical attacks.
“They told us we deserved what happened to us because the jihadists told us to stop making noise.” Salamata is a teenager — her church was looted and burned down by jihadists, who then killed all the men
What’s life like for Christians in Burkina Faso?
Salamata* (19) from Burkina Faso is from a Muslim family. When she became a Christian, she was sent to live with a pastor in another village where she could attend high school. But jihadists attacked the pastor’s church and singled out the Christian men.
“Some of the attackers surrounded us, while others burned the motorbikes that they did not want to loot. The whole area was filled with smoke. We were still seated when we heard gunshots behind the church. After the attackers left, the pastor’s wife went to see what had happened. She fainted when she saw that they had killed all the men.”
Since 2016, many Christians and moderate Muslims have fled their homes in the face of increasing jihadist attacks. Many live in camps for internally displaced people, where Covid-19 has exposed them to even more hardship. At the end of 2020, Open Doors partners were able to deliver aid packages to help 1,000 families, including Salamata. She received some basic trauma care too, but still struggles with many unanswered questions.
“Sometimes I cry. To me it feels like, from my childhood until now, God refuses to see or understand. Recently, people told me to pray. But I refused, because in my life it looks like God doesn’t hear people’s prayers… Where has God gone? In our lives, we know only tears and suffering. I can only hope that God will eventually have compassion on us and wipe away our tears.”
At the time, Open Doors local partners provided emergency food aid for Salamata and her family. They also prayed with her – and it left a powerful impression on her.
“The change came after your first visit,” Salamata shares. “You prayed for me that day, and after I returned home, I started to ask other people to pray for me. The change did not come in one day. I gradually felt better and started to speak about my feelings little by little. Before, I could not laugh. Now when people laugh, I join.”
Salamata sometimes still has bad dreams, and bad memories linger, but healing has begun. And with your help, she is excelling in her training to become a hairdresser.
“I want to thank God and everybody who prayed for me,” she says. “Your prayers have changed many things in my life. I received joy and peace in my heart. Please, keep on praying for me. It does bring change.”
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Burkina Faso?
Although the country hasn’t changed rank, the persecution of Christians in Burkina Faso has worsened slightly over the past year. This is largely down to an increase in reported incidents of violence, which reflects the growing influence of Islamic extremist groups in the country.
How can I help Christians in Burkina Faso?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso. Your gifts and 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.
Father God, we join the cry of Burkina Faso's Christians and ask You to intervene in this volatile country. Please halt the stream of violence in the country. Protect Your sons and daughters, so that they can worship You without fear. Please heal those who are suffering trauma, and comfort those who mourn. Amen.