More than 10,000 Christians in Burkina Faso have now been driven from their homes due to the violence of ISIS and al-Qaida. The believers are part of an estimated 2.3 million people displaced by jihadist attacks across West Africa. With the United Nations estimating 20% of the population of Burkina Faso now needing humanitarian aid, international groups are mobilizing to provide food, water, and shelter.
But according to Voice of the Martyrs Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, one overlooked need is now being met.
“During the intense persecution, many of these Christian families lost their most treasured possession – their family Bible,” says Representative Foley.
Now, thanks to a fundraising campaign conducted by Voice of the Martyrs, these Christians are receiving Bibles, not only for their families, but also to give to their unsaved neighbors.
“We are partnering with local Burkina Faso church leaders to provide each family with two Bibles – one for their families and another for evangelism,” says Representative Foley. She says her organization transferred funds this month to print and distribute more than 1,400 Bibles—twice the campaign goal. These funds will be added to contributions from other Voice of the Martyrs organizations around the world to provide more than 5,400 Bibles to local believers.
Representative Foley says that with the last French soldiers leaving the country and January 2023 described by Burkina Faso officials as the deadliest month in the country’s history, even some Christians question whether the time is right to send Bibles.
“Too often we Christians have a wrong thinking that Bible distribution must wait or be postponed until a conflict or war is over, as if political peace and humanitarian aid are necessary to first make an area ‘safe’ for the Bible,” says Representative Foley. “But the Word of God teaches that man cannot live by bread alone, and that is true even during a war. Conflicts like this can go on for a long time. If all that is provided is humanitarian aid, a whole generation of Christians grows up without biblical teaching. And it is that teaching—love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, forgive—that can put broken countries and relationships between citizens back together in healthy ways. Jihadists target and kill Christians because they consider Christians to be infidels. But the Bible says that a drought of God’s word is to be feared more than anything.”
A burned-out transport bus after a recent jihadist attack in Burkina Faso.
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea sees Bible distribution in major zones of conflict as one of the ministry’s core competencies and most important responsibilities. “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, that’s when people in that area instinctively turn to God and become open to the Bible. They’re looking for hope. Sometimes missionary organizations evacuate their personnel in such times, or they urge their missionaries to be cautious. But local Christians have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Even as refugees, they still have to find work and provide food to their families and gather as church. God then seems to give these ordinary local Christians a special boldness to preach the gospel and share the Bible with their neighbors.”
Representative Foley said that local believers’ requests for two Bibles—one for their own family and one to share with a non-Christian family in personal evangelistic outreach—motivated Voice of the Martyrs Korea to participate in the campaign to raise funds for Bibles. “These Burkina Faso believers rightly value the Word of God,” says Representative Foley. “Even as jihadists continue to hunt them down, they are focused not on their own safety but on glorifying God by spreading his word.”
Religious extremists attacked this church, destroying equipment and burning 400 Bibles
Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s statistics indicate that Protestants compose only 6% of Burkina Faso’s population. According to Representative Foley, they have been under growing persecution since 2016—a fact not well known to Christians globally.
“Just this week I met with a Korean pastor who was not aware that Burkina Faso Christians were being persecuted,” says Representative Foley. “When I asked the source of his information, he said it was a missionary who had served there 20 years ago. But as I explained to the pastor, Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in Islamist activity since 2016. Militants linked to ISIS and al-Qaida, who had been largely contained in neighboring Mali and Niger, have crossed porous borders in the north to broaden their influence in the Sahel region. Christians have been a primary target of the jihadists’ campaign since April 2019, when approximately 70 Christians were killed and five churches were attacked. More than 200 churches have reportedly closed in northern and eastern Burkina Faso due to security issues and threat of attack. That’s why it’s important for Christians to stay up to date on persecution information: If Christians rely on outdated information, then our brothers and sisters are deprived of the prayers the Bible commands us to pray on behalf of those suffering because of their testimony for Christ.”
Christians in Burkina Faso receive Bibles
Representative Foley says Christians can pray the following for believers in Burkina Faso:
– Pray for believers encircled by jihadists. May God give them strength and boldness to trust in him and not deny him even in the worst trial.
– Pray for those who’ve lost their loved ones.
– Pray for God’s wisdom to continue the ministry to Burkina Faso believers.
– Pray for the evangelistic efforts of Burkina Faso believers as they distribute the Bibles from Voice of the Martyrs to their unbelieving neighbors.
Individuals interested in more information about Christian persecution in Burkina Faso can visit https://vomkorea.com/en/burkina-faso/.