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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #32

BURKINA FASO

 

Country rank

32

Persecution score

66.64

Last year’s rank

28

Region

Africa

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Very strong), Organized corruption and crime (Strong), Ethno-religious hostility (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

20,903,000

Christians

4,965,000 (23.8%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Roch Marc Kabore

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in Burkina Faso through:
• Aid relief
• Training on responding to persecution

ABOUT BURKINA FASO

 What does persecution look like in Burkina Faso?

After a brutal 2019, when Christians were targeted and murdered by militants, there were fewer high-profile violent attacks in 2020. However, the violence still continued—just not as visibly. 

Open Doors estimates there are over 1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burkina Faso, and many are Christians. Extremist attacks have driven followers of Jesus from their homes and villages, with many being forced into refugee camps. Open Doors partners in Burkina Faso report there are no open churches in parts of northeastern Burkina Faso. Christians in this area have largely been forced to flee due to violence from Islamic extremists. Low rainfall and the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened the situation. 

Christians who have converted from Islam also face significant pressure and opposition from their families and communities. Families may reject Christian converts, and new Christians may be pressured to renounce their new faith. This also means new converts from Islam are often reluctant to be public about their faith. Burkina Faso has long had a reputation for tolerance of various faiths, but that reputation is increasingly at risk.  

How women experience persecution

Burkina Faso is located in a region where Islamist groups exert a huge influence and the central government is very weak. As a result, there is always a high potential for girls and women to be abducted and/or forced to marry. Christian girls are pressured (and at times forced) to convert to Islam if their future husband is Muslim. 

It is possible that as more people are radicalized in the north, they might also want to marry early to form families—forcing girls to marry those who join the ranks of extremist groups.

One of the strategies of Muslim extremists is to marry Christian girls. Recently, a daughter of a pastor was forcefully taken away and married to a Muslim man in the capital city of Ouagadougou. In other situations, similar incidents are reported as targeted seduction. 

 How men experience persecution

Islamic militant groups operating in West Africa’s Sahel region often recruit their members from countries like Niger and Burkina Faso. Christian men and boys could be targeted. It is possible that as more people become radicalized in the north, their family members (brothers, uncles, etc.) will be pressured to join the ranks of Islamic militant groups. 

In conflict areas, men are victims of physical attacks by violent Islamic extremists. When Christian men and boys are forcibly displaced from their homes and towns because of their faith, their families are seriously affected by persecution, as well. These displaced men and boys are at risk of not receiving proper education, preventing them from fully integrating into society.  

What has changed this year?

Burkina Faso actually fell four spots on the 2021 World Watch List—however, Open Doors analysts actually believe persecution has become slightly worse in the last year. Fortunately, violence has decreased, but as more overt attacks have lessened, the ongoing crisis caused by Islamic extremist attacks continues to drive suffering and difficulties for the Christianity community in Burkina Faso. Converts to Christianity from Islam are also targeted. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

The northern and eastern parts of Burkina Faso are particularly dangerous for followers of Jesus, especially areas outside of urban centers. Attacks from Islamic extremists have focused on this region.

Additionally, converts from Islam are also vulnerable to pressure and rejection from both their families as well as the broader society. Often, this can lead to a fear of publicly expressing faith. 

How can I help Christians in Burkina Faso

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Burkina Faso?

Through local partners, Open Doors comes alongside Christians in Burkina Faso by helping with emergency aid and by providing trauma care, leadership and discipleship training, persecution preparedness training, and ongoing prayer support.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for the Lord’s provision in the lives of our displaced brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso. Pray that they will not be ruled by fear, but experience the peace only the Lord can give through His Spirit.

-From a pastor in Burkina Faso: “Pray for Burkina Faso, so that the peace of God will reign in the country, and our people will be able to go back to their villages and continue their daily activities. Pray also for our pastors who have been displaced, that God will equip them and put His words of hope on their lips as they minister to their congregations.” 

-Pray for grace for Christians to remain firm in the faith as they face increased hostility. Many people, including Christians, have been severely traumatized by the deterioration in security and the displacement they have suffered. Please pray the Lord will be at work in their lives to bring healing and comfort. 

-Thank the Lord for the efforts by the church to provide for the needs of fellow Christians through church collections. 

-Pray for the Lord’s provision to all the displaced in their physical needs. Please pray the government will receive wisdom and display accountability as they seek to create order in the affected areas.

A PRAYER FOR BURKINA FASO

Almighty God, we come to You and ask for Your protection and sustaining grace to come upon our sisters and brothers in Burkina Faso. We ask that You would protect those who were forced to leave their homes and villages—please give them strength and lift up their heads to see Your face. We pray for followers of Jesus who came out of Islam, that You would help them realize they have a global family of Christians who care for them, even as they are rejected by their biological families. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.