On Sunday a group of about 20 to 30 militant Muslims opened fire in a small church in Burkina Faso, murdering six Christians, including a priest and church elders.
“Towards 9:00 am, during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic church,” Dablo mayor Ousmane Zongo told AFP. “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.”
“They killed five of them. The priest who was celebrating mass was also killed,” he said.
The attackers then set fire to the church, burning it to the ground, before setting fire to several nearby shops and a small cafe. A local health centre was also looted by the group.
“There is an atmosphere of panic in the town,” Zongo said. “People are holed up in their homes. Nothing is going on. The shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town.”
This is the second attack in as many weeks in the country. On April 29, a similar massacre took place at a church in the village of Silgadji, where six Christians, including the pastor, were murdered.
According to the Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List, persecution of Christians is increasing at an alarming rate, with research indicating that each day, 11 Christians are killed for their faith. Additionally, last year “2,625 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned” and “1,266 churches or Christian buildings were attacked.”
In 2018, about 215 million Christians faced persecution, but in 2019 that figure has jumped to 245 million, according to Open Doors. Among those who suffer the most are Christian women who are said to experience a “double persecution” — one for being a Christian and one for being a woman.
“Even in the most restricted circumstances, gender-specific persecution is a key means of destroying the minority Christian community,” Open Doors states. “This kind of persecution is difficult to assess because it is complex, violent and hidden—in many cultures where women are specifically targeted, it is difficult if not impossible to report accurate numbers.”
It is estimated that every day, at least six Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim man under the threat of death. As disturbing as this is, perhaps what’s most shocking is the scandal of silence that has covered over, and continues to cover over, the worldwide persecution of Christians.