BURKINA FASO: 95% of villages lack priests after terror attacks

An explosion of Islamist terrorism in Burkina Faso has left one diocese in a dire situation, with parishes directly attacked and forced to close down, and priests unable to minister to 95 percent of their flock.

A report sent by the Diocese of Fada N’Gourma, seen by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), highlighted that frequent robberies, kidnappings and murders have all increased in the area, which is in the east of the country.

Terrorists in the West African country have attacked five of the diocese’s 16 parishes, which then had to close, while in seven other parishes, ministry is restricted to the main church because terrorists control land routes and have destroyed telephone communication networks.

Dr Caroline Hull, National Director ACN (UK), said: “It is heart-breaking that so many of the faithful in Burkina Faso are having to go without access to their parish priest because of the actions of terrorists.

“ACN seeks to meet both the spiritual and material needs of those we support so we will be doing everything we can to help the suffering Christian communities in the diocese of Fada N’Gourma.”

Until September 2021, less than one third of the diocesan territory (29 percent) was accessible for pastoral work, which is 155 out of 532 villages – however by April 2022 the number of accessible villages had reduced to 29, or 5.5 percent.

During the night of 3rd July, at least 22 people were murdered during 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: “Across all of Africa – particularly the Sahel region where Burkina Faso is – jihadism is growing and, with that, Christian persecution. Christians are murdered, people are abducted, women are raped and treated terribly.

“The international community needs to keep a close eye on this new epicentre of terrorism because left unchecked it could become incredibly disruptive, not just to Africa but to the rest of the world too.”

In many parts of Fada N’Gourma, Islamist sermons have become common and other religious practices are forbidden, while in other areas, Catholic services are permitted, but jihadists enter the chapels to ensure that men and women are seated separately.

In 2021, ACN funded 75 projects in the country, and in the Diocese of Fada N’Gourma the charity supported emergency aid, the training of seminarians, and scholarships for displaced children.

Dr Hull finished saying: “It is only thanks to our benefactors’ generosity that we are able to respond to these crises and show our love for the suffering Church.”

With Maria Lozano