January 15, 2016 was ending like so many other days in the bustling capital city of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. In this city of more than 1.6 million inhabitants, there was nothing out of the ordinary. At around 7:30pm in the Splendid Hotel and nearby Cappuccino Cafe, business was good, as usual. Suddenly, gunfire and screams of “Allah u Akbar” erupted. A handful of Islamic Terrorists murdered dozens and temporarily paralyzed the city.
American missionary, Michael Riddering, of Hollywood, FL, was one of 31 murdered during the attack by Islamic Terrorists. He’s survived by his wife and four children. Michael rarely traveled to the capital, but he did that day in order to pick up a group of short term missionaries visiting from Pembroke Pines, FL. He and his wife founded and ran an orphanage (among many other projects) a couple hours from the capital city, Ouagadougou. Seven missionaries were murdered during the attack. Michael’s wife, Amy, has said that she is proud to carry on their mission.
The terrorist group, Al Mourabitoune, (the same group that killed two dozen at in Mali, in November 2015) took credit for the Ouagadougou attacks. The day before the killings, two American medical missionaries were kidnapped, Ken and Jocelyn Elliott. The Sahara Emirate took credit for the kidnapping. Ken is 81 years old (pic below) and Jocelyn is 76. They’ve been in Burkina Faso for more than 40 years. Ken has been serving as the only surgeon in the impoverished town of Djibo. Jocelyn Elliott was released in Niger after more than three weeks in captivity, however, Ken Elliott remains being held hostage.
Two things come to mind when I see news like this.
1. There is no reasoning with Islamic Terrorists.
With the recent rise of ISIS, Americans have seen what has been happening in the Middle East for some time now. This isn’t to say that there aren’t legitimate freedom fighters in the Middle East, there are, but ISIS and Al-Qaeda aren’t freedom fighters, they’re just plain terrorists. There’s no concern to have a pluralistic or free society for them. There’s no concern for freedom from oppression or from colonial powers. Their only concern is strict adherence to Islamic law in conjunction with world domination. Islamic law is inherently oppressive of anyone who’s not a Muslim male. And even still, they can be oppressed if it’s a Sunni ruling over other groups or a Shia ruling over other groups. There’s little hope for a diplomatic solution independent of military action with those who identify with ISIS-like ideology. Current Middle Eastern rulers have known this, even our forefathers knew this. Yet, liberals throughout Europe and the U.S. still don’t believe it.
2. Christian organizations around the world must have dynamic security protocols in place.
Right now, it’s unclear whether or not this attack could’ve been prevented. It would truly be a tragedy if this could’ve been easily prevented. It’s also unclear whether there were any threats directed at foreigners in the days preceding the attack. Considering the attack was aimed at an area of the city with many foreigners, the attackers chose this area strategically. A strong security team coupled with relevant intelligence could have possibly given foreigners a warning. Hindsight is always 20/20. Playing Monday morning quarterback is pointless now. Except that there’s a lesson to learn here. Burkina Faso has no history of terrorism or violence against foreigners, but if you have missionaries serving in areas of the world where it is, then you need a security plan in place, along with regular threat assessments conducted. If you’re a missionary, then make sure your organization understand how important this is to you, your family, and your ministry.