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World News

Burkina Faso: Nuns risk their lives to help hundreds of refugees

by Heather Preston

A group of nuns have risked their lives to provide vital aid and support to refugees fleeing violence in Burkina Faso.

The rise of Islamic extremism in the country has contributed to an increase in hostility towards religious minorities including Christians, leaving many vulnerable to attack without the protection of local authorities.

Members of Sisters of the Immaculate Conception have been providing emergency aid and relief to hundreds of displaced people in an effort to help them escape the violence.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Sister Pauline and Sister Marie Bernadette explained that many of those they help are widows whose husbands have been killed at the hand of terrorists.

“In the north, the Sisters care for somewhere between 30 and 60 refugees every day,” they said.

“And even here in Ouagadougou, the capital city, we have taken in over 600 people.”

The Sisters provide basic food supplies and amenities as well as care and emotional support to victims.

“These people need bread, water, a little soap, but also especially a sympathetic hearing, a gesture of gentleness, of being loved, even if only for a day, after what they have been through,” the Sisters said.

Last week Open Doors released its 2020 World Watch list which ranks the 50 countries where Christians experience the most extreme persecution for their faith. Burkina Faso appeared on the list for the first time this year, at number 28, revealing a rapid increase in IS extremism there.

The Sisters say they have experienced this first hand, particularly in Northern Burkina Faso.

“Our Sisters in the communities in the north of the country are witnessing daily clashes,” they told ACN.

“Everyone is in their sights – Catholics are killed, animists are killed, Muslims are killed, Protestants are killed.”

In September, ACN reported that 2,000 villagers from northern towns Hitté and Rounga fled after Islamist militants forced them out for refusing to convert to Islam.

Despite the dangers of remaining in the country, the sisters say they are “not afraid” but instead “trust in God’s providence,” as they continue to serve those in need.

ACN provides ongoing support and funding to those serving people in places of persecution, including Burkina Faso.


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