An explosion of Islamist terrorism in Burkina Faso has left a Catholic diocese in dire straits, with parishes directly attacked and forced to close, and priests unable to care for 95% of their faithful.
A report sent by the Diocese of Fada N’Gourma, consulted by Aid to the Church in Need (AED), pointed out that frequent robberies, kidnappings and murders have all increased in the region, which is east of the country.
Terrorists in the West African country attacked five of the diocese’s 16 parishes, which then had to close, while in seven other parishes ministry is limited to the main church as terrorists control land routes and destroyed telephone communication networks.
Dr Caroline Hull, National Director of ACN (UK), said: “It is heartbreaking that so many of the faithful in Burkina Faso are denied access to their parish priest because of the actions of terrorists.
“ACN seeks to meet the spiritual and material needs of those we support, so we will do everything we can to help the suffering Christian communities in the Diocese of Fada N’Gourma.”
Until September 2021, less than a third of the diocesan territory (29%) was accessible to pastoral work, i.e. 155 villages out of 532 – but in April 2022, the number of accessible villages was reduced to 29, i.e. 5.5% .
On the night of July 3, at least 22 people were murdered in an attack, and earlier in the year the minor seminary of San Kisiti had to be moved to Fada N’Gourma, the regional capital.
Dr Hull said: “Throughout Africa – particularly in the Sahel region where Burkina Faso is located – jihadism is growing and with it Christian persecution. Christians are being murdered, people are kidnapped, women are raped and treated horribly.
“The international community must keep a close eye on this new epicenter of terrorism, because if left unchecked, it could become incredibly disruptive, not only for Africa but also for the rest of the world.”
In many parts of Fada N’Gourma, Islamist sermons have become common and other religious practices are banned, while in other areas Catholic services are permitted, but jihadists enter chapels to ensure that men and women are seated separately.
In 2021, ACN financed 75 projects in the country, and in the diocese of Fada N’Gourma, the association supported emergency aid, the training of seminarians and scholarships for displaced children.
Dr Hull concluded: “It is only through the generosity of our benefactors that we can respond to these crises and show our love for the suffering Church.
With thanks to Maria Lozano
Aid to the Church in Need – www.acnuk.org