Christian girls and women in Burkina Faso need to wear burqas to avoid attacks in the face of growing extremism, according to a priest in the country.
Following an explosion of jihadist terror in 2015, extremist groups are still terrorising the Christian population, pressuring them to convert to Islam, Father Wenceslao Belem told Aid to the Church in Need.
According to the priest, Catholic nurses pretend to be Muslims when travelling to patients and Christian girls wear full face veils to school to protect them from being assaulted or abducted.
Father Belem said: “Over 2,000 schools have been closed. They attack modern schools and turn them into Quranic schools.
“They attack Catholic schools, killing or abducting Christians, especially catechists, priests and committed laypeople.
“And they want to force women to wear full face veils, regardless of their religion.
“Many Christian girls have to wear veils to school in order to avoid being branded, maligned, beaten or even kidnapped.”
Churches are guarded because of the constant fear of terrorist attacks, Father Belem said.
He added: “The terrorists mine the roads that lead to the villages to prevent us and the military from having access.”
With terrorist groups occupying 50 percent of Burkina Faso’s territory, priests risk their lives every time they travel to provide pastoral support.
On 2nd January 2023, unidentified armed men murdered Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo when he was travelling to a funeral. Spanish missionary Antonio Cesar Fernandez was assassinated by a group of jihadists in 2021.
Father Simeon Yampa was murdered along with five parishioners during Sunday Mass in 2019, two months after another priest, Father Joel Yougbare, was kidnapped.
Father Belem said: “Before going out on pastoral missions we pray intensely, receive the sacraments and go to confession, in case we do not return.”
Catholics, who make up about 19 percent of Burkina Faso’s population, have been increasingly resorting to listening to Mass and catechesis over the radio. Father Belem added: “In Burkina Faso we currently have thousands of closed schools, many parishes are inactive and there are over 1.7 million internally displaced.
“Facing this threat requires both courage and imagination. [Nurses] continue to care for people who need medical attention and who are often left in villages, with no resources.”
He concluded: “We believe that evil will not have the last word.”