Coup leader vows to drive out Islamists

The new president of Burkina Faso has warned that the nation’s existence is threatened by Islamic jihadists.

Captain Ibraham Traoré
New president Captain Ibraham Traoré is determined to regain lost territory
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Army Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who ousted his predecessor in a coup in September, said: “We are confronted with a security and humanitarian crisis without precedent.”

“Burkina’s existence is in danger”

Traoré, 34, who was sworn in as interim president on 21 October, continued: “Our aims are none other than the re-conquest of territory occupied by these hordes of terrorists. Burkina’s existence is in danger.”

Burkina Faso
Barnabas Aid has provided food and practical aid for Christian Fulani families displaced by the violence in Burkina Faso (Photo: Barnabas Fund)

Traoré’s coup was the second in a year, after Burkina Faso’s last elected president, Roch Kabore, was forced out in January 2022. Both coups arose because of the failure of the previous regimes to stop Islamists from killing thousands of civilians, many of whom were Christians.

According to Barnabas Fund, Islamist groups control around 40 per cent of the country, two million people have been displaced, churches have been shut, farms have been destroyed, cattle stolen, over 6,000 schools have closed and 50,000 teachers are unemployed.


88 Christians killed in one month

The massacre of Christians in Nigeria continues unabated.

In October alone, at least 88 have died. In a village in Benue State in central Nigeria, Fulani herdsmen killed over 70 Christians. In Obi County and Keana County in north-central Nigeria, Islamic extremists killed 15 Christians. A further three died in in an attack on a village in Chibok County, north-east Nigeria. Many more people were wounded and displaced from their homes, and their villages burned.

According to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report, Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith at 4,650 last year, up from 3,530 the previous year.


Two Christians released but two arrested

Evin Prison in Tehran
Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran Credit: Ehsan Iran, Creative Commons

Two Christians have walked free from the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran after pardons were first denied and then granted.

Imprisoned for their church leadership roles, Pastor Naser Navard Goltapeh and a woman, Fariba Dalir, were released a few days after a fire broke out in the prison in October. Both Christians had served over a third of their sentences, and under Iranian law were eligible for early release, but no reason was given. Both had spent time in solitary confinement.

A Middle East Concern expert said: “We know that various bodies, the UK government and the UN, were advocating for Pastor Goltapeh’s release, and we know that Evin Prison is hosting protestors and running out of space, but we don’t know what made [President] Khamanei do this.”

Ahmadi is serving an eight-year sentence for allegedly leading a house church

Sara Ahmadi and Homayoun Zhaveh
Sara Ahmadi and Homayoun Zhaveh Credit: Article 18

Meanwhile, Iran has given harsh sentences to a Christian couple. Homayoun Zhaveh and his wife Sara Ahmadi were detained in August in Evin Prison, notorious for its brutality.

Both have been imprisoned before. Ahmadi is serving an eight-year sentence for allegedly leading a house church, and Zhaveh is serving two years for membership of a house church.

Middle East Concern has requested prayer for a review of their sentences and that they will be acquitted, especially since Zhaveh, 63, is in poor health.

A UK government report recently highlighted the persecution of Christians in Iran. “Simply being a Christian is enough to get you arrested”, the study noted. Titled, ‘Country policy and information note: Christians and Christian converts, Iran, September 2022 (accessible)’, it can be read at www.gov.uk.



Russians close Ukrainian churches

Russian and pro-Russian forces have been closing churches and arresting pastors in areas of Ukraine invaded by Russia.

Grace Baptist Church, Melitopol
Grace Baptist Church, Melitopol Credit: Voice of the Martyrs, Korea

Churches closed include the three largest evangelical Protestant churches in Melitopol and others in Mariupol. According to Release International, pro-Russian soldiers are reported to have stated that only Orthodox Christianity was allowed.

At Grace Baptist Church in Melitopol, Russian soldiers shut down the church in the middle of a service on 11 September. Voice of the Martyrs Korea reported that the worship was stopped, the congregation had to give their names, a number of leaders were arrested and Pastor Mikhail Brisyn was given 48 hours to leave the city. The service was being broadcast live, but the footage has been deleted from the Internet.

Local residents told the occupying forceburs where Christians lived

Melitopol Christian Church’s cross was removed and the building turned into a “cultural sports entertainment complex”.

After the takeover of the city of Lysychansk in July, local residents told the occupying forces where Christians lived. The leaders of six Protestant churches were forced to leave the city and the congregations had to meet in secret.

The UN has denounced “violations of the right to freedom of religion and belief” by Russian forces, first in Crimea and now in Ukraine.



New believers persevere despite persecution

The Sacred Heart Cathedral
The Sacred Heart Cathedral, also called Vientiane Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Vientiane, the capital of Laos Credit: Mx Granger/Wikimedia

New Christians in Vietnam and Laos are bravely refusing to deny Jesus despite opposition, according to the Open Doors mission.

A single mother from a tribal Hmong background became a Christian in Vietnam this summer after hearing about the faith from a friend. Neighbours said she must renounce her new faith or be thrown out of the village. Hoa* said: “I will follow my Lord who forgave my sins. I will accept any cost because of my new-found faith.”

Hoa and her daughter had to leave but have found temporary shelter in another village. An Open Doors local partner is providing food.

“I will follow my Lord who forgave my sins”

In Laos, a father and son have been imprisoned for refusing to deny their faith. In 2021, Sonexay* left the animist religion to follow Jesus. The village chief told Sonexay to return to animism or he would be arrested and his family forced to leave. Sonexay refused and, after two failed attempts to arrest him, the police finally imprisoned him and his 19-year-old son.

Both were later released after the intervention of other local believers.

Footnote: * Names are changed for security reasons

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