BOBO-DIOULASSO, Burkina Faso (Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission/Mennonite Mission Network) – Mennonites in Sidi, Burkina Faso, are trusting God for their daily bread. Since it is the beginning of rainy season (June-September), it is time to plant crops in this semi-arid region. However, the Mennonites feel called to renounce the practice of offering a live chicken and four liters of dolo, a locally made millet beer, to the spirits of the land.
This is what is required in order to obtain farming plots from the village leaders. Each family must bring these offerings. Traditionally, the land is not sold, or rented, it is loaned to people who work it to feed their families.
Seydou Sanogo settled in Sidi 17 years ago. Because he was the only Christian in the village, he would go to worship in neighboring Banzon. After an evangelistic campaign in 2011, more people became Christians and a congregation, Eglise Evangélique du Burkina Faso (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso), began to meet in Sidi. The village leaders granted land to the Christians to build their place of worship.
In the beginning, the Christians complied with all the traditional conditions for the use of the land, but as the Mennonite church grew in numbers and as their faith deepened, the Christians began to see their offerings of the chicken and the beer as sacrifices to the spirits of the land.
In an attempt to live more faithfully, the Mennonites proposed a thank-you gift to the village leaders. They would bring produce from their farms and money, instead of customary offerings. Then, it would be up to the village leaders to decide how to use these gifts. This proposal was not well received by the leaders. They perceived the suggestion as an act of disobedience on the part of the Christians, and accused them of breaking their original promise to abide by the conditions for land use.
The village leaders said that if they allowed the Christians to break the solidarity that bound the community together, this would open the door for others to disregard the traditional laws also.
The Christians firmly believe that they are being called to obey God’s word in Mark 16:15 that says, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” They persist in worshiping God, even though the village leaders have taken back the land on which they had built their church.
The Mennonites of Sidi are convinced that God is working through these difficulties to speak to their community. Their hope is to see the Sidi church grow. They also hope that those who are persecuting them will become servants of God.
Siaka Traoré is national president of Eglise Evangélique du Burkina Faso and the president of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission’s board of directors. He owns franchises of Christian bookstores and hardware stores in Burkina Faso, and lives in Bobo-Dioulasso with his wife, Claire, and three children.