Lutherans struggle in Burkina Faso, a nation riven by rising terrorism, internal displacement, and food insecurity
BURKINA FASO – The International Lutheran Council (ILC) is urging prayer for Lutherans in Burkina Faso, as the church there struggles in the midst of widespread violence and terrorist attacks.
The nation of Burkina Faso has faced multiple terrorist attacks over the past five years, with targets ranging from military and police, villages, markets, schools, and churches. The United Nations reports that violence in the nation has led to the displacement of more than one million people as of August 2020—an increase of more than 453,000 since the beginning of 2020, and a dramatic change from early 2019 when there were 87,000 internally displaced people in the country.
Today, five percent of the entire population is now displaced. More than 2,500 schools have been closed, and health care access has been significantly decreased in the areas most regularly affected, especially northern and eastern parts of the country.
Members of the small Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burkina Faso (Église Évangélique Luthérienne du Burkina Faso – EELBF) have not escaped the growing violence. Over the past three years, the EELBF has seen twelve of its members killed in terrorist attacks. Several others have disappeared and remain missing.
“We are very discouraged,” confessed President Tanpo Tchiriteme of the EELBF. “We ask for your prayers that peace would return. Pray also for those who have lost family members—orphans and widows—and for all of us.”
Of the missing, he adds, “we hope that by the grace of God we will find them.”
The displacement of people in Burkina Faso has led to the closure of multiple EELBF congregations and preaching points, complicating Gospel-proclamation and practical care for members in the beleaguered nation.
“Our sisters and brothers in Burkina Faso are suffering,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, General Secretary of the International Lutheran Council. “I encourage Lutherans around the world to lift up the nation of Burkina Faso in prayer. O God, be merciful to a suffering people. Bring an end to the growing violence and grant your people peace. We especially pray for the pastors and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Burkina Faso. Grant them the peace which passes understanding, and give them strength and hope to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—good news sorely needed in these difficult times.”
Those wishing to support the work of the EELBF during the current crisis can donate via The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), which has supported work in Burkina Faso since 2000. Gifts should be designated for “Mercy Work.”
Even before the rise of terrorism in the country five years ago, Burkina Faso faced significant challenges. Burkina Faso remains one of the poorest nations in the world, with about 40 percent of the country living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. As of 2018, the United Nations estimated that nearly one million people in the country needed food security support, and that more than 187,000 children under the age of five could be expected to face severe malnutrition.
These challenges have been aggravated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of displaced people, the extreme poverty, and the lack of access to health resources makes it difficult for people to practice safe hygiene and social distancing. As of August 24, 2020, the country has recorded 1,328 cases of the coronavirus, with 55 deaths. 223 cases remain active.
The pandemic has not slowed instances of terrorism either. Since July 27, 2020 sixteen schools in the east part of the country have been burned down, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. On August 7, 2020, gunmen also attacked a cattle market in an eastern village, leading to the death of about twenty people with many others injured.
Prayer for Burkina Faso:
Gracious God, heavenly Father, You know the shock and sorrow that the events of these days have spread across the land. We are helpless before the evil that afflicts us and therefore cry out to You for comfort, shelter, and protection. Mercifully embrace the frightened in Your love, empower the weak with Your strength, restrain the wicked by Your might, and preserve the righteous in Your grace, giving us Your peace and turning tragedy to triumph; though Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
– From the LCMS Pastoral Care Companion
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Burkina Faso is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.