"We thank God for keeping us alive"

A Christian woman describes the day Islamist gunmen brought terror to her village in Burkina Faso

Sarah requests prayers for the many thousands of people who, like herself, have been driven from their homes by Islamist extremists

"T here are no words to express our gratitude to those who donated us this food,” said “Sarah” as she thanked
Barnabas supporters.

Sarah was among 3,290 desperate and hungry Christians given Barnabas-funded rice, spaghetti, salt and cooking oil to sustain them after they were driven from their homes by Islamist militants in Burkina Faso. The majority of the recipients of this latest delivery of aid from Barnabas were children – more than 2,000 aged under 15. 

Jihadists have waged a campaign of terror centred on the north and north-eastern regions of Burkina Faso for many years, much of it targeted against Christian communities and church leaders. 

More than 40% of Burkina Faso is under the control of the extremists. Thousands of civilian lives have been lost; churches have been destroyed or closed; homes, farms and crops lie in ruins; over 6,000 schools have closed and more than two million people have been forced to run for their lives.

Sarah’s story 

Sarah is one of those two million. The terrorists came to her village one Sunday, just as the church service had ended. Sarah and her friends were exchanging greetings and sharing their excitement about her wedding, due to take place the following day.

Children from the congregation, who moments earlier had run outside to play, came back to say there were “strange people” in the compound. The strangers were, in Sarah’s words, “very armed”.

“They surrounded us and sent all the women to sit under a tree next to the church,” she told Barnabas. “Some of them were to keep us under control so that we would not run or cry.

“They asked, ‘Who is your leader?’ Our pastor replied that he is the leader. And they took the men – the pastor, a deacon and other members. Six people in total.

“They took them behind the church building. They laid them down there … They asked us to bow and they started shooting behind the church. After that they warned us not to move.”

The terrorists looted the village, taking all the community’s food and livestock. They stole Sarah’s wedding gifts. Before leaving, they set the church building ablaze.

The traumatised survivors buried their dead, and prayed. 

“We thank God for keeping us alive,” said Sarah. “And we also thank Him for those who went before us to glory.

“We know that if God didn’t allow this to happen it couldn’t be so,” she added.

Sarah and her husband fled their community along with other villagers to seek refuge in the nearest city, already crowded with internally displaced people (IDPs). 

Her husband struggled to find work to buy food for Sarah, who was by then pregnant. More often than not they went hungry.

Weakened by a lack of nourishment, Sarah went into labour and, despite the best efforts of doctors, her baby – a boy – was stillborn and Sarah nearly died.

“They started shooting behind the church. After that they warned us not to move”


Christians refused government food aid

Our project partners say there are many traumatised Christian IDPs who, like Sarah, are in urgent need of food. 

Distribution of government food aid is rare, and believers are sometimes refused a share by Muslim officials because of their Christian-sounding names. Other Christian IDPs have been unable to register for it because they had fled without their identity cards or birth certificates.

Our partners told us that the situation has become much worse. More Christians are fleeing their homes because of the escalating violence and need help, yet there is often no food available to buy. The worsening security situation makes it increasingly dangerous for our partners to deliver aid.

“But by God’s grace we always found ways and wisdom to serve,” said a Christian leader. “It is an enormous privilege to be able to serve like a channel of comfort to those in crucial need of it.”

He added that, although many Christians struggled to find words to express their thanks for the Barnabas-funded food relief, “there is a great sense of gratitude in the hearts and on the faces of the thousands of IDPs that we are forwarding your colossal support to”.

Barnabas funds school for displaced Christian children

Some Christian children displaced by the violence in Burkina Faso have been refused entry to government schools because of their faith.

Christian children like “Albertine” have fled their homes because of extremist violence. Many have then been denied a place in government schools because of their faith

Even non-Christian children may be denied a place just because they had previously attended a Christian school.

Barnabas has funded a new emergency school to enable 300 displaced Christian children, aged between 6 and 14, to continue their education. Each child receives a hot meal for five days a week as well.

The school has provided jobs for Christian teachers and they have received training to enable them to respond to the needs of children traumatised by the difficult situations they have endured.

Project reference: PR1596 (Emergency schooling for IDP children in Burkina Faso)

Project reference: PR1491 (Victims of violence in Burkina Faso)

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