A leading Catholic charity is reporting that
thousands of Christians in northern Burkina
Faso fled their homes this month and are
seeking shelter in another village after they
were given the choice to either flee or
convert by Islamic extremists.
As tens of thousands in northern Burkina
Faso are being displaced each month
because of extremist violence and
insecurity in the region, a source told Aid
to the Church in Need that nearly 2,000
people fled from their homes in the villages
of Hitté and Rounga in September.
A local source who spoke with the Catholic
charity and requested anonymity detailed
what happened in Hitté.
“At the beginning of September, 16 men
arrived in the village, intercepting the
villagers who were returning from the
fields,” the local source was quoted as
“Some of the men forced the people to
enter the church where they threatened the
Christians and ordered them to leave their
homes in the next three days, while others
set fire to whatever they found in their
Because of this, the source said, Hitté no
longer has any Christians.
Following the ultimatum given in Hitté, the
militants are said to have traveled to
Rounga, where villagers there faced a
similar type of evacuation ultimatum.
“Almost 2,000 people have fled these two
villages alone,” the source estimated,
adding that the displaced families have
found shelter in another village.
“They are by no means the only ones
facing this situation,” the source added.
“[R]ather, they are just part of a program
by the jihadists who are deliberately
sowing terror, assassinating members of
the Christian communities and forcing the
remaining Christians to flee after warning
them that they will return in three days’
time — and that they do not wish to find
any Christians or catechumens still there.”
The incidents in Hitté and Rounga come as
there has been a drastic escalation in
deadly attacks by Islamic extremist groups
in northern Burkina Faso — as well as
across the Sahel region of West Africa.
Church leaders say that a number of those
attacks have targeted Christian
The comments from the source who spoke
with Aid to the Church in Need are similar
to remarks from an anonymous local
Christian who spoke with the
interdenominational aid charity Barnabus
Fund after an attack in the town of
Arbinda earlier this year.
“There is no Christian anymore in this town
[Arbinda],” the source told Barnabus Fund.
“It’s proven that they were looking for
Christians. Families who hide Christians
are killed. Arbinda had now lost a total of
no less than 100 people within six
Since the violence began escalating in the
once seemingly peaceful country in 2015,
the U.N. reported this month that nearly
300,000 people have fled from their homes
and over 500 have been killed.
Of the nearly 300,000 displaced, most have
been displaced this year as the number of
violent attacks in Burkina Faso has
continued to increase in 2019.
The U.N. notes that there has been an
average of 30,000 people displaced from
their homes each month since the
beginning of 2019. Most of the displaced
are living in host communities while some
are living at displacement sites.
At least 2,024 schools have been shut
down and over 330,000 kids are being
deprived of an education.
Over the month of July, there was a 35
percent surge in the number of health
facilities closed because of insecurity. As
over 60 percent of health facilities are
closed in Burkina Faso, the U.N. estimates
that over 626,000 people are without
access to basic health care.
“The revised Humanitarian Response Plan,
released in August, is calling for US$187
million to provide urgent assistance to
nearly 1.3 million people, including 800,000
affected by violence and insecurity,” the
U.N. report states. “As of 29 August, only
30 percent of the required funding has
As the rapid growth of militant attacks
continues in Burkina Faso, three groups
have been most active: the Islamic State in
the Greater Sahara, the Macina Liberation
Front, and Ansaroul Islam.
Chrysogone Zougmore, who heads the
Burkinabe Movement for Human and
Peoples’ Rights, told The Washington Post
in August that attacks targeting Christian
communities are “planting seeds of a
“They want to create hate,” Zougmore was
quoted as saying. “They want to create
differences between us.”