This article was originally published by The Mennonite

The Bible undergirds human rights

Mennonite World Conference has four commissions that serve the global community of Anabaptist-related churches: deacons, faith and life, peace, mission. Commissions prepare materials for consideration by the MWC General Council, give guidance and propose resources to member churches, and facilitate MWC-related networks or fellowships working together on matters of common interest and focus. In the following, one of the commissions shares a message from their ministry focus.

This article first appeared on the Mennonite World Conference website.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” —Matthew 28:20

Here in Burkina Faso, we have been confronted with terrorist attacks for more than four years. It is an inexplicable situation because even though the attacks are recurring no one has claimed responsibility.

Faced with this situation, the government has turned to all parts of society, including the churches, to provide explanations, receive counsel and ask for prayers for the nation.

In Bobo-Dioulasso, where I live and carry out my pastoral ministry, the Federation of Evangelical Churches and Missions has hosted a number of visits from government ministries.

Human rights

In 2019, we hosted a visit of the Ministry of Human Rights and the Ministry of Integration, Solidarity and Social Cohesion.

During these visits, I had the opportunity to speak in the name of the churches. I said to the Madam Minister of Human Rights and to the representative of the Ministry of Integration, Solidarity and Social Cohesion that the foundations upon which their work is based are principles from the Bible.

The Bible is the foundational document defending human rights.

God pays attention to the need to defend the rights of the weakest. The Bible says: “Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another” (Zachariah 7:10).

First and foremost, God is the defender of human rights.

According to my personal analysis, which I preach in church and share with our government authorities, the crisis my country is experiencing is due to the following injustices:

  • A poor distribution of the resources of the country that promotes unemployment, thereby facilitating the enrollment of young people in terrorist and jihadist movements.
  • According to human rights organizations, there are also extrajudicial executions. I read the testimony of a young person who said, “Some of us enroll in terrorist, jihadist movements because members of our families were kidnapped, accused by security forces and disappeared, so in order to avenge what happened to them, we are fighting the system of government.”

There is no peace without justice.

Peace and justice

The authorities of Burkina Faso have confidence in us and ask for our contribution in the search for peace. Each time they come to us, we give them hope by leaning on the promises of God: “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage” (Psalm 33:12).

By leaning on such words, we place Burkina Faso under God’s control. We have the conviction that the contribution of the churches through prayers has an impact on the country. We say without ceasing: “Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain” (Psalm 127:1b).

We also organize prayer meetings for the nation and on these occasions we invite the administrative and political authorities.

At the occasion of one of the prayer meetings we were preparing last year, the president of Parliament visited us. He asked us to pray for the nation to avoid fighting and political divisions.

When he learned we were organizing a prayer meeting at the House of Culture, he covered the cost of renting the space as well as the cost of refreshments for all of the participants, even though he’s Muslim.

The Eternal remains our hope in this struggle. The visit of a delegation of Mennonite World Conference in a few days will strengthen our hope, knowing that brothers and sisters are thinking of us and praying for us.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… He makes wars cease to the end of the earth…” (Psalm 46:1,9).

Siaka Traoré is chair of the Deacons Commission for Mennonite World Conference and lives in Burkina Faso.

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