Almost 30 Christians were killed or kidnapped in different incidents in three different countries over the past few days.

Fifteen Christians were killed and two wounded in an attack on Catholics in Essakane, in the Diocese of Dori, Burkina Faso. The attack, which took place on Sunday, 25 February, was carried out by terrorists who targeted the Catholic community during the gathering for Sunday prayer.

According to information sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by the Diocese of Dori, twelve of the victims were killed during the attack, while three others died in the local clinic of their wounds.

The statement asks for prayers for the victims and their families, but also for the criminals. “At this painful time, we invite you to pray for those who have died in the faith, that they may rest in the Lord; for the healing of the wounded, and for the consolation of those who are grieving. Let us also pray for the conversion of those who continue to sow death and desolation in our country. May our efforts of penance and prayer during this blessed season of Lent bring peace and security to our country, Burkina Faso.”

The security situation in Burkina Faso has become drastic over the past few years, with Christians being particularly targeted by terrorist groups inspired by Islamic extremism

More kidnappings in Haiti

The massacre in Essakane came on the heels of disturbing news from Haiti, in the Caribbean, where six male religious and one priest were kidnapped in two separate incidents in the capital city of Port-au-Prince on Friday, 23 February. The six members of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart were abducted while on their way to the John XXIII School, run by the order. A teacher who was with them was also taken. 

Only a few hours later a priest was also kidnapped in Port-au-Prince. He was taken from his parish, among some of the faithful, soon after having finished saying morning Mass.

The security situation in Haiti is very poor, as society in general deals with the total breakdown of the state and regular institutions. Despite the tireless work done by the Church, clergy and religious have not been spared from the violence led by armed gangs. These latest kidnappings took place less than a month after a group of six religious sisters were also abducted, only to be released the following week. 

Murders in Ethiopia

One day earlier, on Thursday 22 February, ACN received word of another tragedy, this time in Ethiopia, where four monks were kidnapped and murdered by armed men.

The monks belonged to the Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery of Zequala, just 50 km from the capital, Addis Ababa. This sad news was confirmed by the Department of Public Relations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The attack on the Monastery occurred in the context of a violent struggle between ethnic armed groups and the central Government of Ethiopia, though ACN is not in a position to independently verify which of the different agents involved in the conflict was directly responsible for the killings.

Call for prayers

At the conclusion of the today’s General Audience, Pope Francis invites the faithful to pray for Burkina Faso and for Haiti, and not to forget the people of Ukraine, of Palestine and Israel, and all those suffering due to war.

“Recalling that hate is not the solution for conflicts,” the Pope went on to urge “respect for sacred places” and called for “a fight against violence” aimed at “the promotion of the values of peace.”