BURKINA FASO: THE CHURCH IS GROWING, BUT SO IS ISLAM

Here is my ninth weekly prayer newsletter on a majority Islamic country. If you would like to sign up to receive them into your email inbox just fill in the box on the right (lap tops and Ipads) or scroll to the bottom (phones).

BURKINA FASO: THE CHURCH IS GROWING, BUT SO IS ISLAM
1. History
Slightly larger than Victoria in Australia, Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa of some 20 million people that ranges from tropical savannah in the south to the Sahara Desert in the north. The name Burkina Faso means The land of upright men.

Its ancient history is one of small subsistence tribal groups until the arrival of the Mossi peoples from Ghana sometime around the 14th Century. The Mossi established an empire that covered much of modern Burkina Faso as well as a wider region. Being located near many of the main Islamic states of West Africa, the Mossi kingdoms developed a mixed religious system recognizing some authority for Islam while retaining earlier ancestor-focused Animist worship. Although they had initially resisted Islamic imposition and retained independence from the main Islamic states around them, eventually there began to be a growing number of Muslims living in the kingdom. But by 1900 the colony was still 90% Animist and 10% Muslim. As the 20th Century progressed the number of Muslims increased rapidly, as did the number of Catholics. By 2000 the country was over 55% Muslim and roughly 20% Christian, with Animism making up the remainder, but shrinking in influence.

In 1897, the Mossi became a French protectorate and by 1903 France had subjugated all other ethnic groups in that region of Africa. The French kept the institutions of the Mossi empire largely intact for decades. Unlike the British, the French had little interest in social development in its empire. So what the French then called Upper Volta was left without much in the way of education, health care, administrative infrastructure and economic development when it became independent on Aug. 5, 1960.

2. Situation Today
This lack of development has led to an average life expectancy of just 54 years, an average income of 1% of the USA and a revolving door of military coups since independence. Population density is high by African standards in the south. With over 90% of the population involved in subsistence agriculture, in times of drought large migrations take place into neighbouring countries, especially to Cote d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast). Democracy is now slowly taking root but the military is always a factor in the background. The country is still a secular state with a remarkable level of religious freedom.

Islam takes on an unusual flavour in Burkina Faso. On the surface it is largely Sunni , but Shi’a is growing in popularity. Then again Sufism is also very popular. Below these surface labels however, locals are quick to tell you that Burkina Faso is 55% Muslim, 20% Christian and 100% Animist! Witchcraft and the occult are still widely followed by people in all the new religions. This unusual blend of Islam continues to grow numerically and unfortunately will one day dominate politics and the culture.

3. Evangelical Highlights
Burkina Faso is therefore a country rapidly dividing between the world’s two major religions as the number of Animist continues to shrink. Most Christians are in the centre and south. The desert north belongs to Islam. The populated south west is disputed between the two religions. Sadly, because of the influence of French Catholicism, by 1960 there were still virtually no evangelical believers in the country. This situation changed dramatically in the decades leading up to the year 2000 and the country is now 10% evangelical, or some 2 million people are born again. This was one of the most dramatic growth rates in the history of Christianity. Growth has now slowed to about 4% a year, about the same growth rate as Islam. The great influx of new Christians has left the new churches with little in the way of missions vision because the harvest of souls was TOO easy for too long!

Unfortunately, only 10% of the evangelical community, or some 200,000 people come from a Muslim background. In addition, little energy is being put into evangelising the majority Muslim population. Topping this off, many parts of the church are still influenced by the Animism and spiritism. The power of the occult is yet to be decisively broken. This is the key point when considering how to pray for Burkina Faso as evangelical churches are still absorbing the huge growth of the last century and still developing a strong sense of mission.

4. Prayer Points
Pray for the crushing of demonic strongholds.
Pray that the 1 million members of the AOG church will launch the next wave of evangelism.
Pray for the 1 million Catholics to come to Jesus.
Pray for the many Christian radio stations to reach the unreached.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to tap Muslims on the shoulder, creating workers to reach other Muslims.
Pray for the millions of evangelicals across Africa to get a vision for Burkina Faso.
Pray for a deepening of understanding of the Christian faith among evangelicals.
Pray for religious freedom to continue.
Pray for souls.

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