As with many places in West Africa, Burkina Faso is the scene of increasing attacks by Islamic extremists. Christians are among those targeted and killed, leaving loved ones grief-stricken and traumatised. Through a trauma programme that you’re helping support, our suffering brothers and sisters are finding reason to smile and even laugh amid the pain.
Your prayers and gifts are helping Christian women in West Africa heal from their traumatic experiences
You may be familiar with the trauma care provided for persecuted Christians in Nigeria. More recently, Open Doors local partners have begun offering this vital care to believers in Burkina Faso, who have been affected by the Islamic extremism sweeping across West Africa.
Here are four ways this care — which you’re supporting with your gifts and prayers — is helping bring smiles to Christians not just in Burkina Faso but elsewhere in West Africa…
When it comes to grief and trauma, often the biggest challenge is getting people to talk. To do this in Africa, trauma care must address some misguided beliefs over the impact their grieving will have on their loved ones who’ve died.
“What I see here in Burkina Faso is universal and common in every place when people get hurt, especially in Africa,” shares Tirham, an Open Doors trauma care trainer in West Africa. “Their families tell them not to cry or talk about what has happened to them, in the belief and hope that if they do not cry, their loved ones will find peace and rest after life.”
“This is a common thing that we find everywhere,” she continues. “They find it difficult to talk so they bottle it up and don’t express their feelings.”
For those affected by persecution, the trauma can be exacerbated by questions such as “If God loves us, why do we suffer?”
“We try to teach them that, whatever happens, we should remember God’s character,” Tirham says. “The world was created by God; it was clean and perfect, but then sin came into the world and it changed everything. If we are suffering, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us; rather it’s because of choices that we make or the choices that Adam and Eve made. Disobeying God brought sin, suffering and pain into the world.”
The programme also explores other issues including forgiveness and lament, as well as how being a victim of rape doesn’t make someone dirty or demon possessed.
The need for trauma care in Burkina Faso is so huge that one person said to Tirham, “I didn’t even know that this thing called trauma exists and we can heal trauma. We can start working towards healing our heart wounds.”
“There are others who have already made progress with trauma care [in Burkina Faso], but their focus is not necessarily on persecuted Christians like ours is,” Tirham explains. “We need trauma healing for the church if we want to succeed in helping believers, not only with relief but their emotional needs. If people can get healing, it will be wonderful. It will establish their faith so that they can be strong in the Lord.”
To highlight the powerful impact trauma care is already having on believers in Burkina Faso, Tirham shares about one of the first programmes they held in the country.
“The first day women came was on a Monday and you could see and literally feel the pain in their eyes and faces. On Tuesday, when we started the workshop, you could see that they were reserved. They were not open to discussion. They could answer the question from the stories, but they did not talk about their personal problems.
"On the last day they said God had really healed them" Tirham
“The following day I noticed that some of them started smiling. We did a lesson on grief and a light seemed to go on inside them and brighten their faces. It’s like they realised, ‘Wow, I can actually grieve. I can actually cry and tell God how I feel…’ By the next morning, they were laughing and whatever I said they would laugh. I was really happy. I told them, ‘Today your faces are shining. Because the first day you were not smiling. Yesterday you smiled. Today you are laughing.’ On the last day they said God had really healed them.”
One final story reinforces the impact trauma care has on Christians in West Africa. “One thing that we see again and again is women’s ability to sleep,” Tirham says. “I was talking to someone who said that, for a very long time, she hadn’t been able to sleep. But since she came here, she has slept through the night.”
It all comes from giving people the freedom to feel and share their pain. “People here are able to just pour out their feelings and simply speak about it,” Tirham observes. “They are releasing a burden in their hearts. You can see it from their faces and the way they interact with people. They start smiling and laughing, and are able to sleep better.”
None of this would be possible without your prayers and support — thank you!
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Every £24 could train a church leader to better disciple their church community
Every £35 could help empower a West African church to give persecuted believers emergency shelter and food
Every £45 could help equip a church member to provide trauma care to believers in their community
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.