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Tragedy in Burkina Faso: Pope Francis send message of peace and solidarity

Pope expresses condolences for the attacks in Essakane and Natiaboani

The Holy Father, Pope Francis, sent a telegram of condolence on behalf of the Catholic Church for the victims of the attacks that took place on Sunday 25 february 2024 in Burkina Faso. These attacks struck a Catholic church in Essakane and a mosque in Natiaboani, causing loss of life and injuries.

Signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, the telegram sent to the President of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, H.E. Mgr. Laurent Dabiré, expresses the Pope’s deep sorrow for the terrorist attack on the Catholic church in Essakane. The Holy Father expresses also his sadness at the attack against the mosque in Natiaboani, extends his sympathy to the Muslim community and joins in the mourning of the families affected.

An appeal for peace and understanding

Pope Francis emphasises that hatred is not the solution to conflicts. He calls for the fight against violence and respect for sacred places. Promoting the values of peace is fundamental to building a better world. The Holy Father prays for the repose of the dead, entrusting them to God’s mercy, and for the healing of the wounded.

Divine blessings for Burkina Faso

Finally, the Pope invokes an abundance of divine blessings on all the sons and daughters of Burkina Faso and the entire nation.

But what happened on sunday 25 february 2024?

It was a day of Tragedy and Terror in Burkina Faso.

Essakane, a small village located 45 km from Dori, in the Sahel region of north-east Burkina Faso, was the scene of tragic and ruthless violence. A community of believers, who were gathering for Sunday prayers under the guidance of a catechist, fell victim to a vicious jihadist assault.

The assault

At 8.30 a.m. on sunday 25 february, jihadists broke into the chapel where the community of worshippers was gathering for prayer. Most of the worshippers had already been forced to flee due to the violence perpetrated by jihadist groups since 2018. However, some people bravely continued to gather on Sundays to pray under the guidance of the catechist.

The terrorists fired at the men, sparing the women. Twelve worshippers died instantly, while three others died later from their injuries. Two people were injured.

The context: the ‘three borders’ zone

Essakane is located in the so-called ‘three borders’ zone, an area on the edge of Burkina Faso, close to the borders with Mali and Niger. This region is known to be a den of jihadist groups, where violence and instability are the order of the day.

Atrocious attack on the Natiaboani Mosque

Also on 25 February, in eastern Burkina Faso, armed people carried out a brutal assault on a mosque in the village of Natiaboani, killing several dozen men and women gathered to pray, including a prominent religious leader.

The terrifying scenario

At first light, terrorists surrounded the mosque, firing indiscriminately at the worshippers who were there for the first prayer of the day. The victims were all Muslims, and their deaths left a devastated and grieving community. It was reported that the attackers entered the city determined to bring death and destruction.

The Sahel region and the terrorist threat

The Sahel, a vast region stretching some 5,400 km from the Atlantic Ocean eastwards through countries such as northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and southern Sudan, has been the scene of a growing terrorist threat. Groups affiliated with AI-Qaeda and the Islamic State have seized large swathes of territory, contributing to the displacement of millions of people.

The fight continues

The authorities in the Sahel region have been fighting Islamic terrorist groups for years. The Libyan civil war of 2011 triggered a series of events that led to the jihadist insurgency. In 2012, radical Islamism conquered northern Mali, and since then instability has spread to Burkina Faso and Niger. Over the course of these years, more than 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million have been forced to leave their homes because of the violence.

The Church’s response: a call for Peace and Security

The Vicar General of the Diocese of Dori, Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, denounced those who continue to sow death and desolation in their country. In a region where attacks against Christian churches and kidnappings of clergy and seminarians have become frequent, Fr Sawadogo called on the faithful to pray for the eternal rest of those who have died and for the healing of the wounded. He asked them to unite in penance and prayer, so that Burkina Faso may find peace and security.

In a world marked by conflict and division, Pope Francis urges us to reflect on the need to build bridges of dialogue and solidarity to end this spiral of terror and suffering. At this time of pain and uncertainty, prayer and solidarity are essential to support the affected communities and to seek a path to peace in this conflict-torn land.


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