Christians in Burkina Faso are mourning a deadly attack on a Protestant church as “a new turning point in terrorism” in the West African nation. The April 28 shooting at an Assemblies of God congregation in a northern village left six people dead, including the pastor, and represents the first church attack among the recent surge of Islamist violence.

A dozen gunmen on motorcycles stormed the courtyard of the Sirgadji church after worship, fatally shooting its longtime pastor as well as five other congregants after demanding they convert to Islam, according to a statement sent to Christianity Today by the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso, Michel Ouédraogo. The attackers also stole from the church and burned its pulpit.

The church was one of the oldest Protestant congregations in the region, which borders Mali to the north, and pastor Pierre Ouédraogo had served there since its founding in the 1980s. The long-serving pastor had sensed danger, but told family members “he prefers to die for his faith rather than leave the village where he has served for nearly 40 years,” said his son-in-law, according to the AG statement.

His testimony “shows the commitment that Pastor Pierre Ouédraogo had for the ministry,” Michel Ouédraogo told CT. “His family and members of the church are shocked, and naturally live in fear. However, we firmly believe that God will comfort them in these moments of pain.”

The victims include the pastor’s son and his son-in-law, who served as a deacon in the church. In response, “more than 100 Christians already have left for more secure towns further south, such as Kongoussi, over 75 kilometres away,” reports World Watch Monitor.

Christianity Today