Fr. Wenceslao Belem explained that priests are routinely murdered, Christian girls kidnapped, and schools targeted by Islamic jihadists.
A recent event organized by Aid for the Church in Need (ACN) highlighted the continuing plight of Christian persecution in the African nation of Burkina Faso. Keynote speaker Father Wenceslao Belem, of Burkina Faso, spoke of the extraordinary measures Christians take to avoid harassment, abduction, and worse by Islamic jihadists and called for prayers to end the persecution of Christians.
Father Belem painted a picture of a lawless region where Christians live under constant threat of violence and without freedom. He explained that churches in Burkina Faso must be guarded during services lest they be vulnerable to sudden attack. Similarly, in order to avoid abduction, Christian girls must wear full face veils on their daily trips to school and Catholic nurses must dress as Muslims in order to safely travel to villages to treat patients.
According to ACN, Fr. Belem said that Christian schools were among the most popular targets for terrorist attacks:
“Since the terror began, more than 2,000 schools have been closed. They attack modern schools and turn them into Koranic 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.”
Continuing, the priest also explained that some terrorist groups will plant landmines in the roads leading up to villages with strong Christian presences, in order to prevent aid from reaching them. He noted that before clerics travel to such areas they pray, go to Confession, and receive the Eucharist in case they do not make it back.
The dangers Christian clerics face while traveling are mirrored at home, Fr. Belem explained, as it is not unusual for priests to be attacked at their home parish. He recalled the case of Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo, who was murdered in January 2023. Fr. Zerbo had been driving to a village for a funeral when he was stopped by terrorists who fatally shot the priest before stealing his car. The murder took place close enough to the village chapel that the shots were heard by the congregation, which ran out to find Fr. Zerbo’s body.
This was just one of several similar stories the priest shared at the Madrid event. With little to no recourse on a legal level, Fr. Belem said the only weapon that Christians of Burkina Faso have to defend themselves is prayer and the spirit of peace. He thanked ACN for not allowing the persecution of Christians in Burkina Faso to be forgotten:
“With God there is always salvation!” he said. “We believe that evil will not have the last word. We continue, with hope, to fight against terrorism with the only ‘Kalashnikov’ we have, our invisible but very effective weapon: prayer, the sacraments, Holy Mass and the Rosary. Dying for love of God and of others destroys the roots of the forces of evil.”
Read more comments from Fr. Wenceslao Belem at Aid to the Church in Need.