Proclaiming Peace when Bullets are Flying?
Anne Garber Kompaoré in Burkina Faso
April 27, 2011
Anne Garber Kompaoré in Burkina Faso
April 27, 2011
17 You must not hate your brother in your heart.
You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him.
18 You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people,
but you must love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:17-18
After a great time visiting some of you in Canada and the U.S. and getting back to Burkina and settling down at home at the beginning of March, I was happy to get back to work, helping out our Mennonite translators at a couple of workshops, and beginning to prepare my course on the Exegesis of Biblical Law at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Theological Seminary in Abidjan, Ivory Coast where one of our Mennonite Burkinabé translators is studying. The situation there was tense with the continuing stand off between the two self proclaimed presidents, but I was told that courses were continuing as usual inspire of the increasingly unstable security situation. So I prepared in faith that I would indeed be able to teach my course as scheduled on May 2-13.
On March 22, I finally got together with my pastor's wives committee where we planned for a seminar in the coming weeks. After a long chat sharing with each other, we finally go home at 9 pm. I then go for a short walk around yard, and start hearing what sounds like gunshots in the distance. I go back to the house and inform Daniel, who is relaxing on the patio, and continue to listen. Then suddenly I begin seeing what looks like small fire brands descending like falling stars not far from our yard. We prudently decide it is time to go inside. The shooting goes on throughout the night, and the next morning we discover that a number of stores have been broken into and looted by the military! And why all the ruckus? It was simply their way of protesting their conditions. The store owners were not amused. The soldiers also took a number of shots at the courthouse because they were not happy with the decisions of some judges, we are told. So the judges decided to stop working until their security could be assured.
March 29-30 Our night is disturbed again but this time we get a phone call at 4 am, with the frightening news that my brother in law and wife were being attacked by the military. We could hear the shots, three kilometres away, at our house. So Daniel stayed close to the phone, and I began praying. Miraculously inspire of being roughed up and threatened at gunpoint, neither of them received a gunshot wound, nor were there any broken bones or internal injuries! However their house was a sorry mess with broken windows and furniture, any many of their belongings stolen. After a rest in the hospital for a week, my brother in law was ready to get back to work again and as he said to the press - to put that episode behind him! And he proclaimed that it was only the grace of God that saved his life.
In the meantime we are having power cuts of up to 7-8 hours a day. But I keep slogging on with my course preparation when I can.
In the meantime, also, things were heating up in Ivory Coast, and the army supportive of Alassane Ouattara who was officially declared the winner, began in the north sweeping south and taking possession of towns. On April 4 they arrive in Abidjan. After a week of fighting, much looting, and people staying inside, the outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo is finally captured on April 11 and the fighting starts to slow down. Pro-Gbagbo supporters change camps and pledge their allegiance to Ouattara, and call for a cease fire. I wonder - will things be safe for me by the time I am to go Abidjan?
In the same week, on the night of April 14, Daniel and I were relaxing on our patio again (it is too hot in the house!). At about 10 30 pm we learn from Radio France International that the Presidential military Guard here in Ouaga were shooting up around the President's residence! We could not hear the shooting ourselves since it was too far away, but the speculation began to run wild about a possible coup d'état. The president was able to get out of his palace and move to a couple of other places in the night in order to get away from the shooting. Then as the night wore on, we began to hear shooting in our part of town. The next morning we hear there is a military blockade just down the street from us. And then we hear that the military were taking vehicles away from people. I decide against going to the workshop at SIL across town.
In the meantime, we hear that the president has come back to his palace and is meeting with the military concerning their demands for the bonuses that had been promised them. The president took care of that immediately! But the rest of our day we stayed at home, hearing sporadic shooting throughout the day and into Friday night, including a few potshots at my brother in law's place. My brother in law as well as other key politicians lay very low in undisclosed locations. As you can imagine nerves were becoming quite frayed, not knowing if one would receive an unwelcome visit or not. The military attacked even more stores during that time, including a small gas station next to us. But once the Presidential Guard got their money they went out and started arresting the other military who was still on the rampage! Anyways, a curfew was decreed that very evening from 7 pm to 6 am, and no one had to be convinced to stay home! By midnight to the wee hours of the morning, the shooting died down and we were finally able to sleep.
Saturday morning the 16th, the furious store owners now went on the rampage downtown and burned the presidential party headquarters and attacked some other government buildings. Gas stations closed - many of them had also been attacked - and the only way one could buy gas was from boys selling gas in litre bottles on the street. Palm Sunday was calm. I decided to move to SIL for the rest of my workshop which ended on Thursday, just before Easter. Shooting continued for a few nights in outlying towns, and a little in Ouaga, but the curfew was solidly in place.
I began writing Abidjan asking for confirmation about my course. Classes had been cancelled since April 4. When would they start? Would dates for my course be changed? They wrote back and said courses would start again on May 2, and that my course would be maintained as scheduled! Wow!
On Sunday, we had a most glorious Easter morning service with the most vigorous singing that one can imagine. Jesus has risen! He has conquered death! He has conquered sin! He has conquered Satan! Hallelujah! It was special to see my brother in law and wife attend worship with us.
I could say many profound things about what all we have been going through and give you many more details, but it has simply been a time of much uncertainty from day to day, but doing one's best to continue on with the tasks assigned to us even if we do not know what tomorrow will hold, and learning to trust God from day to day.
So all this to say that I leave Thursday April 28 for Abidjan! I will be coming from a recently violent situation going to teach to students who have just lived through an even more violent situation. And we will be studying passages such as the ten commandments and Leviticus 19:17-18 and other biblical laws in this context. Undoubtedly it will be a time of reflecting together on our actions as Christians in a country with much need for healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Praise God for protection for those who have been escaped injury, pray for the victims of the violence and their families and livelihoods. Pray for healing and constructive and just peace making in both Burkina and Ivory Coast. And pray especially for my time in Abidjan, that God will work through me as I serve Him there in the next two weeks.
Blessings to you all,
Anne Garber Kompaoré
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