Armed gunmen attacked a church during Sunday services in the West African country of Burkina Faso and killed 24 parishoners, including the pastor. 18 more were wounded, and an unknown number were kidnapped from the church, according to the Washington Examiner.
The attack took place at a Protestant church located in the village of Pansi, close to the border with Niger. Regional Governor Col. Salfo Kabore said the gunmen came from outside the village and deliberately separated residents from non-residents before opening fire.
The attackers also stole rice and oil from nearby shops, kidnapped several young people, and forced them to transport the goods on their motorbikes, according to The Independent.
Bloodshed in Burkina Faso
It is not yet known who was behind the attack, but there has been a dramatic spike in attacks by Islamist insurgent groups in the region since early 2019.
1,300 Burkina Fasoans have been killed in attacks since the start of last year, which represents a seven-fold increase from 2018.
The west African nation’s population is roughly 55-60% Muslim, but about a 25% of those who live there are Christian, including Catholic President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.
It is common for those who commit this type of violence to cite the victims’ religion as justification for their acts, and many other murders are reportedly carried out as a means of retaliation for killings committed at the hands of government security forces.
An estimated 760,000 people have fled their homes to escape the violence in Burkina Faso, and conditions on the ground are deteriorating to the point of becoming a true humanitarian crisis.
Scourge of religious persecution
Other similar church attacks have occurred in recent months, including an incident in December at another Protestant church, which left 14 dead.
According to The Guardian, earlier this month, a suspected jihadist group took hostages at a pastor’s home in Sebba. Days later, five bodies were discovered on the premises, including that of the religious leader himself.
Figures from the United Nations indicate that approximately 4,000 people died due to jihadist attacks over the past year in Burkina Faso as well as in nearby Mali and Niger, The Guardian reports.
The persecution of Christian populations across the globe is something that deserves much greater attention, and it serves as a stark reminder that the threat posed by jihadists in all corners of the world is very much alive and well.