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Sahel region of Africa new 'epicentre' for Christian persecution

by Alex Collett

According to the latest Global Terrorism Index Christians are being targeted by Islamist terror groups in the Sahel region of Africa and Sahel has become "the new epicentre of terrorism". 

Release International has identified that Sahel is an emerging hotspot in their recent Persecution Trends report, which supports persecuted Christians around the world.

Partners of Release have reported that Christians are being executed by armed gangs, who target their villages and stop cars and buses on the road.

A Release International partner whose identity needs to remain hidden, said: "Christians are killed on the spot.

"If you're kidnapped and you're a believer, there is no possibility you will survive.

"When the jihadists attack villages, they know where the Christians live and they search them out. They are looking for believers". 

Susanna has worked in the region for more than a decade and is alarmed by the growing religious dimension to many of the attacks.

In Burkina Faso, the terror groups destroy shops, schools and official buildings, but the focus of their destruction are often churches. 

The Sahel region extends across Africa where the Sahara gives way to savannah, taking in a swathe of nations, including Niger, Mali and Chad. 

Chief executive of Release International, Paul Robinson said the conflict in the Sahel is "the forgotten jihad". 

"The religiously motivated violence that has been growing in Nigeria is now being replicated in a much wider region. It is time for the world to sit up and take notice."

Burkina Faso, until 2014, was a model of peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims. 

Both faith groups lived contentedly side by side. 

But then heavily armed jihadists began returning from conflicts in Libya and Syria.

In 2019 the violence increased dramatically. According to Susana, that year, the jihadists declared their intention to target Christians, who make up at least 20 per cent of the population. 

"Now the whole country has been touched by these terrorist attacks," she concluded. 

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