By BosNewsLife Africa Service
OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO (BosNewsLife)– An Australian Christian missionary who was kidnapped by Islamic militants and freed last week says she hopes to be reunited with her still detained husband and “continue” their medical work in Burkina Faso, though at least seven Christian aid workers were killed there in recent weeks.
“I want to be with my husband shortly so that we can go to Djibo and continue there,” Jocelyn Elliott, 76, said at Burkina Faso’s presidential palace. Jocelyn and Dr. Ken Elliott were abducted close to the Niger border on the night of January 15-16 by militants linked to the Al-Qaida-terror network.
They have been running medical facilities in Burkina Faso since the 1970s, including a 120-bed clinic in the town of Djibo, close to Mali’s border, at which Dr. Elliot, 81, is the only surgeon.
The militants said they had released Jocelyn Elliott because they did not want “to make women involved in the war”. The Elliot family has urged the fighters to show similar mercy to her husband, BosNewsLife learned.
Their appeal came amid deadly violence in the West African nation: Christians confirmed that six of the 29 people killed in a January 15 attack by Islamist militants in Burkina Faso were on a humanitarian trip prompted by their Christian faith. A seventh person was a U.S. missionary who had been running an orphanage and women’s refuge with his wife in the West African country since 2011, confirmed aid and advocacy group Open Doors.
“Among the dead are four Canadians from the same family who were spending their Christmas break doing aid work in schools and orphanages.Yves Carrier, his wife Gladys Chamberland, and their two children, Charles-Élie, 19, and Maude, 37, were visiting on behalf of their local church-affiliated group, Le Centre Amitié de Solidarité Internationale de la Région des Appalaches,” Open Doors said.
“They and two family friends, Suzanne Bernier and Louis Chabot, left Quebec just before Christmas for an extended trip to work in several remote villages in Burkina Faso.”
Victim Michael Riddering, 45, from Florida, had reportedly been serving as a Christian missionary in Burkina Faso since 2011. During the recent Ebola crisis, his work included comforting families and digging graves.
On January 15, he was meeting Valentin, a local pastor, at Cappuccino, the café where the attack began. Pastor Valentin, who survived the attack, managed to make a quick call to Riddering’s wife, Amy, to say “Pray,” before the line went dead, according to Open Doors investigators.
She later confirmed via social media that her husband had died during the attack, saying, “Heaven has gained a warrior!”The American couple had two adult daughters, Hayley and Delaney, in the U.S., and had adopted two more children from Burkina Faso—a girl, Biba, 15, and a boy, Moise, age four.
Riddering’s mother-in-law, Carol Boyle, described him as a man who was “extremely well-loved and respected … He had his guiding light, and he followed it”.
Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the jihadist group al-Murabitoun was behind the attacks on two hotels and the café, which were frequented by foreigners, including United Nations staff and aid workers. Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, reportedly said two of the attackers had been identified as women.
Three militants, including an Arab and two Africans, were killed in the assault on the Splendid Hotel and Cappuccino Café. A fourth extremist was killed at the Yibi Hotel, officials said.
The group reportedly called the attack “a new message from the heroic champions of Islam, with their blood and their bodies, to the slaves of the cross, the occupiers of our homes, the looters of our wealth, and who would undermine our security.”
Open Doors said it had urged supporters to pray for those left behind and added that while “Satan would use these attacks to thwart the work” of “Christ’s church” God “promised to take everything that happens and use it for good”.
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