Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Tuesday, 27 February 2024
Pope condemns bloodshed in Burkina Faso and calls for peace
Pope Francis mourns those killed in terrorist attacks on a Church and on a Mosque in Burkina Faso and calls for respect for places of worship and the promotion of the values of peace. The Catholic Diocese of Dori confirms that 15 parishioners were killed on Sunday, February 25, during a terrorist attack in Essakane village and two others injured, as extremist groups linked to al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State (IS) continue to extend their range of action in the vast Sahel region.

Linda Bordoni and Lisa Zengarini / :

Pope Francis has expressed grief for a “tragic terrorist attack” on Sunday, February 25, during Holy Mass at a Catholic church and for an attack perpetrated against a Mosque in Burkina Faso as Muslim worshipers gathered for morning prayers.


In a telegram sent on his behalf by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Pope reiterated his firm belief that “hatred is not the solution to conflicts.”


The Pope‘s words of closeness come as the Christian community in the West African nation was shattered by the violent massacre of 15 worshippers in a Catholic church in Essakane, in the far north of the country, on Sunday.


A second attack took place at a Mosque in Natiaboani in eastern Burkina Faso in which dozens were killed on the same day.  


In a telegram addressed to Bishop Laurent Dabiré, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, the Pope said he was deeply for the loss of human life caused by the attacks and joins in the mourning of the families.


He said he prays for the repose of the deceased, “entrusting them to God's mercy, and for the healing of the injured.”


And recalling that “hatred is not the solution to conflicts,” the Pope asked for respect for sacred places and called for “the fight against violence in order to promote the values of peace.”


The Holy Father’s telegram concluded with the invocation of divine blessings for the sons and daughters of Burkina Faso, and the nation as a whole.


15 Catholics reported killed in terrorist attack in Burkina Faso

At least 15 Catholics attending Sunday Mass were killed on Sunday in jihadi-ridden Burkina Faso during a terrorist attack, reported local Church sources. 


The attack occurred in Essakane village in the country’s North-Eastern Oudalan province, a jurisdiction of the Catholic Diocese of Dori bordering Mali and Niger.


According to a media release issued by the Vicar General of diocese on behalf of the Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré, twelve worshippers died at the scene of the attack, while three succumbed to their injuries  and two others are in hospital.


In the brief statement, Fr. Jean-Pierre Sawadogo invited the faithful to pray for those “who died in faith, for the healing of the wounded, and for the consolation of grieving hearts."


The Vicar General also appealed for prayers for the conversion of those who “continue to wreak death and desolation in the country.”


"May our efforts of penance and prayer during this blessed season of Lent obtain peace and security for our country, Burkina Faso," he wrote.


The February 25 attack is the latest in a long string of atrocities committed by Islamist terrorist groups linked to the so-called  Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the vast Sahel region which also includes Mali and Niger, where terrorism has increased by over 2,000 percent in the last 16 years causing the displacement of millions of people. 


Authorities in the region have been battling against the Islamist terrorist groups since Libya’s civil war in 2011, followed by an Islamist takeover of Northern Mali in 2012. Though the Malian government regained most of the territory in 2013 with the support of French forces, which are now no longer present, the jihadist insurgency has continued even after the military took over in a coup in 2021 ,and has spilled over into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso now also ruled by military juntas.


In an interview in 2023 Bishop Birfuoré, who chairs the Joint Bishops' Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, (CEBN), told the Catholic foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), that  the consequences of this wave of terrorism have been terrible for the Church.


Apart from sometimes attacking Christian churches, the terrorists also kidnap foreign missionaries, priests, seminarians and men and women religious and a  growing number of parishes have been abandoned by the faithful  because of fear of attacks.  


He confirmed that half of the territory is controlled by jihadist groups that want to impose Islam on the whole country. “The terrorists want to eradicate this society and all who do not profess the same brand of Islam, including Muslims, which means that the terrorism is now aimed at society as a whole,” he said.


He went on to identify the jihadist group dubbed “Support Group for Islam and Muslims” as the most notorious in the West African nation, adding that the group’s “actual goal is to oppress today's society, which is a multi-religious society of dialogue and coexistence.”


According to the 2023 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), terrorism-related deaths in the Sahel represented  43 percent of the global total in 2022, up from just 1 percent in 2007, with Burkina Faso and Mali, accounting  for 73 per cent of terrorism deaths in the Sahel and 52 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa.


Both countries recorded substantial increases in terrorism, with deaths in Burkina Faso increasing by 50 per cent to 1,135 and in Mali by 56 per cent to 944. Attacks in these countries are also becoming deadlier, with the number of people killed per attack increasing by 48 per cent from 2021.


The escalation in violence in Burkina Faso has also spread to neighboring countries, with Togo and Benin recording their worst GTI scores on record.


In March last year, a delegation of 10 West African Catholic and Muslim religious leaders from Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Ghana met  the U.S. legislators “to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Sahel region,” the Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reported.