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World News

Catholic charity warns of 'killing campaign' against Christians in Burkina Faso

by Donna Birrell

A Catholic charity says it has received anonymous reports that terrorists in Burkina Faso have instigated a killing campaign against Christians.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was told that a group of 147 Christians – including children, elderly and eight pregnant women – fled from two villages, on the Niger border, at the end of October, to Dori, the capital of the Sahel region, as extremists sought to kill them.

The source said: “The terrible thing is that when someone gave us refuge, we were denounced as Christians, and this put the person who had accommodated us in danger. We have to sleep at a distance from the villages.

“Not all the Christians in the area have been able to flee. We are concerned about the fate of our sons and wives who remain there.”

Multiple local sources have told ACN that terrorists enter villages and demand taxes per head of cattle, and that terrorists have been asking cattle herders whether they are Christian or Muslim so that they could kill the Christians.

One of the sources said: “If the owners were Christians the attackers didn’t consider it necessary to count their animals, because they said that they didn’t just want to take their animals, but also to kill the owners.”

Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré, Bishop of Dori, told ACN: “[There are] attacks, kidnapping, and murders in the whole country. The terrorists are kidnapping whoever they want to, executing some and liberating others.”

“Last Sunday (31st October) the terrorists turned back the regular buses which were on the way from Dori to Ouagadougou, saying that from now on the road was blocked.

“Although the army afterwards patrolled the road, the people are afraid because this is only intermittent, and the terrorists can come back at any moment.”

Bishop Dabiré, who is also president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, was concerned about the future of his diocese, Dori, with the country as a whole seeing an increase of terror attacks by 250 percent between 2018 and 2019.

“Dori runs the risk of being cut off from the rest of the country, and the situation is not getting better.

“It’s really dangerous to travel by private vehicle or even public transport and people are afraid of being stopped on the way by an unexpected terrorist checkpoint. Please pray for the sad and dramatic situation in my diocese.

“The danger is growing all the time. We hope that those who have not managed to leave the endangered villages are able to do so safely in the coming days”.

In 2019 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that around 289,000 people had fled their homes because of the violence.

In the last five years, ACN has funded 28 projects in the diocese of Dori, including emergency relief programmes for priests and families of displaced catechists, as well as financial support for the pastoral work of the Catholic Church.

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