Pope Francis urged interreligious dialogue in Burkina Faso as ongoing violence by jihadist groups has killed more than 750 people in the West African country this year.
“I address a special thought to dear Burkina Faso, who for some time has been tried by recurrent violence,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square recently.
At least 38 people died and 60 were injured in an attack on Canadian mining company convoy, Semafo, Nov. 6.
“I entrust to the Lord all the victims, the wounded, the numerous displaced persons and those who suffer from these tragedies. I appeal for the protection of the most vulnerable,” the pope said.
Violence involving jihadist groups — some affiliated with al Qaeda or the Islamic State — has killed at least 755 people in Burkina Faso between January and October 2019, according to Reuters.
Attacks on Burkina Faso’s gold mines have provided the armed groups with new sources of funding.
Following the most recent attack, Pope Francis appealed to civil and religious authorities “to multiply their efforts, in the spirit of the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Brotherhood, to promote interreligious dialogue and harmony.”
In May 2019, ten Catholics were murdered by gunmen in one week. During Mass, attackers shot and killed five men, including the priest, and then burned down the Catholic church in Dablo. The following day, gunmen killed four more Catholics during a religious procession and then burned the Marian statue.
Following the wave of violence against Catholics this year, Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of Dori, Burkina Faso told Aid to the Church in Need of an attack that occurred on July 27, 2019:
“When the people of the village of Bani had gathered together to speak among themselves, the Islamists arrived and forced everybody to lie face down on the ground,” he said. “Then they searched them. Four people were wearing crucifixes. So they killed them because they were Christians.”
The bishop said this was the fifth attack against Christians in Burkina Faso in 2019.
“Today their main target appears to be the Christians and I believe they are trying to trigger an inter-religious conflict,” he said.
“If the world continues to do nothing, the result will be the elimination of the Christian presence in this area and quite possibly in the future from the entire country,” Bishop Dabire said.