A January 23 coup d’etat in Burkina Faso has closed the borders to that West African nation, but not before Voice of the Martyrs Korea, working in partnership with local Burkina Faso Christians and Voice of the Martyrs Poland, were able to provide drinking water wells and educational support to displaced Christian families there.
“A wave of Jihadist attacks originating from Libya has destabilized several countries in West Africa in recent years, leading to a coup in Mali, a failed coup in Niger, and now the coup in Burkina Faso,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “The leaders of the coup are not jihadists but military officials who feel the government hasn’t done enough to defend the people and the country during the attacks.”
Burkina Faso is ranked #32 on the 2022 World Watch List of the world’s most persecuting countries. Representative Foley says it is too early to tell how the coup will affect the country’s Christians, who are a minority in the northern and eastern parts of the country where Islam is the dominant religion and where the jihadist activity has resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees, including 40,000 Christians.
A wave of Jihadist attacks originating from Libya has destabilized several countries in West Africa in recent years, leading to a coup in Mali, a failed coup in Niger, and now the coup in Burkina Faso.
“What we are thankful for is that by working with local Christians and our sister mission, Voice of the Martyrs Poland, we were able to provide crucial humanitarian and educational resources to these displaced Christians of Burkina Faso before the border closed,” says Representative Foley. “What is even more amazing is how these local Christians and Christian refugees have used these resources to share their faith with Muslims and other non-Christian groups.”
Representative Foley points to the three water wells that Voice of the Martyrs Korea partnered with local Christians and Voice of the Martyrs Poland to drill in the refugee hotbed areas of Ouahigouya, Pissila, and Louda.
The first water flows from one of three new wells dug by a partnership of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, local Burkina Faso Christians, and Voice of the Martyrs Poland in a village with a refugee population of more than 80,000. Recent jihadist violence has displaced more than 40,000 Christians from their homes in northern and eastern Burkina Faso.
“In just one of those cities, for example, there are more than 80,000 refugees,” says Representative Foley. “When information spreads that any international aid is coming, everyone runs to line up. Unfortunately, the local officials that distribute the help are mainly non-Christians. Every refugee must provide an ID card. That card allows officials to know who is Christian. The officials do not openly turn away Christians, but they say things like, ‘Oh, I need to confirm more information about your situation.’ In this way, Christians are moved to the end of the line and often receive nothing. So, Voice of the Martyrs arranged to drill wells administered by local churches where Christian refugees would not be turned away. Now those Christians are sharing that water with others, which gives them great opportunities to share about the living water that is only found in the gospel.”
Representative Foley shared a letter from one of the Christians involved in sharing water with non-Christian refugees. “They wrote, ‘We have many displaced people here. There are not only Christians, but many people came here to find refuge. It is the last safe place for them to come to this area. All of them need water to prepare the food. Without it, how can they survive? Thus, we are grateful for the gift of the well that we may use. We do not know our partners, but God knows them.’”
According to Representative Foley, local Christians, rather than international aid agencies and missionary organizations, are the key to successful ministry during armed conflicts and internal instabilities. “Voice of the Martyrs Korea is not a mission organization but instead a partner with local Christians living under persecution or pressure,” says Representative Foley. “Any time a major conflict threatens an area, whether it’s COVID or a coup, that’s when missionary and aid organizations often have no choice but to evacuate their personnel, or they urge their missionaries and international staff to be cautious or hide. But local Christians have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. They still have to make a living, find water, gather for worship, and educate their children, even while they are wandering as refugees. God then seems to give these ordinary local Christians a special boldness at times of conflict and unrest to preach the gospel and do the work of the church.”
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with local Christians and Voice of the Martyrs Poland produced three drinking water wells and educational support for 1,104 Christian families in the year preceding the coup. She says that a similar strategy of partnering with local Christians in Ukraine and with Voice of the Martyrs Canada enabled Voice of the Martyrs Korea to help distribute 40,000 Action Bible New Testaments to Ukrainian children immediately prior to the current Ukrainian/Russian conflict.
“Only the Lord knows what will happen next in Burkina Faso and Ukraine,” says Representative Foley. “But we are thankful that we could provision the local Christians in both places not only to survive but to be effective ministers of the gospel to their non-Christian neighbors at a time of fear and chaos.”
Displaced Christians in Burkina Faso line up to receive water from one of the 3 water wells dug by a partnership of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, local Burkina Faso Christians, and Voice of the Martyrs Poland
More than 1,100 Christian children in Burkina Faso received tuition support and school supplies before the coup through a project of Voice of the Martyrs Korea partnering with local Burkina Faso Christians and Voice of the Martyrs Poland.
She adds, “Any time a major conflict threatens an area, that’s when people in that area instinctively turn to God and become open to the gospel. They’re looking for hope. They can see that hope most clearly in their local Christian neighbors—people who are exactly like them except they have Christ. Because of Christ, the Christians are sharing all they have with their non-Christian neighbors. So always the ministry of local persecuted Christians is the most powerful way to advance the gospel during times of conflict and instability. They can do things that no international relief agency or missionary can do.”
Individuals interested in learning more about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnerships with local persecuted Christians can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/.