Should Christians Join Burkina Faso’s Militias Against Terrorism?

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As Mali experiences a coup amid sputtering West African campaign against jihadist threat, Burkinabe citizens join the fight themselves.

What should Christians do when their government cannot protect them from terrorism? As the world’s first post-coronavirus coup shakes Mali, nearby Burkina Faso is experimenting with a controversial lesson in self-defense.

Last month, a cohort of army officers deposed Mali’s president following widespread protests against economic and security conditions. While the coup has been condemned by regional leaders—placing the West African nation under sanctions—initial indications suggest Christians have been respected and consulted in the majority-Muslim nation’s transitional process.

Coup leaders have stated they will respect the fraying peace deal reached with local rebels in 2015, but will also continue to work with the multinational efforts dedicated to stamp out the terrorist threat.

Back in June, former colonial leader France formalized an agreement to unify forces under a single command with troops from Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Last week, the United States announced $150 million in humanitarian assistance for 4 of the 5 Sahel republics (excluding Chad) to address mass displacement and food insecurity caused by the conflict.

To gain perspective on Burkina Faso, CT interviewed Joanna Ilboudo, secretary-general for ACTS Burkina, a nonprofit Christian association dedicated to helping the nation’s widows and orphans without religious distinction. She in turn took the pulse of local Christian leaders and laity on behalf of CT.

Located in West Africa’s volatile Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert, the Colorado-sized Francophone country of 20 million had been home to one of the continent’s model nations for peaceful coexistence. Around 60 ethnic groups divide …

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