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A dark weekend of Christian persecution

Burkina Faso on map

hyotographics | Shutterstock

Filipe Avillez-ACN - published on 02/27/24

Nearly 30 Christians from three different countries were either killed or kidnapped over three days.

Fifteen Christians were killed, and two were wounded, in an attack on Catholics in Essakane, in the Diocese of Dori in Burkina Faso.

The attack, which took place on February 25, was carried out by terrorists during the community’s Sunday prayer.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Dori, 12 of the victims were killed in the attack, while three others died of their wounds in the local clinic.

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 Burkina Faso.”

On the same day as the attack on Catholics, in the eastern town of Natiaboani a mosque was targeted by jihadists: a dozen Muslims were killed as they gathered for prayer.

Security in Burkina Faso has deteriorated sharply in the past few years, with terrorist groups inspired by Islamic extremism. The violence in the country is part of a wider conflict that involves several countries in the Sahel region, including Mali, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria.

Pope Francis sent his condolences on Monday, expressing his “deep sorrow” for the double terrorist attack on a church and a mosque. “Hatred is not the solution to conflict,” he said, calling for respect for sacred places.

More kidnappings in Haiti

The massacre in Essakane came on the heels of disturbing news from Haiti, where six male religious and one priest were kidnapped in two separate incidents in the capital city of Port-au-Prince on February 23.

The six members of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart were abducted on their way to the John XXIII School, which is run by the order. A teacher who was with them was also taken.

“In view of this painful event, the John XXIII institution is closing its doors until further notice. The other institutions of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart throughout the country will continue the work of raising awareness among the new generation of the values of living together in harmony, with a view to the emergence of a new society that is more humane, more caring, and more united,” said the congregation in a statement sent to Aid to the Church in Need.

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

Security in Haiti is very poor, as its society deals with the total breakdown of the state and regular institutions. Despite the work of the Church, clergy and religious have not been spared the violence of 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. Plus, Bishop Pierre André Dumas of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau/Miragoâne was badly injured in an explosion while visiting Port-au-Prince. It is not yet clear if the explosion was caused by criminal activity or a gas leak. The bishop is in stable condition and recovering well in a hospital in the United States.

The Congregation of the Sacred Heart also said, “We firmly believe that our compassionate God will change the hearts of stone that sow desolation into hearts of flesh for a revolution of love in Haiti. For several years now, absurd and unjustified violence has plagued the peaceful Haitian people, and not even those who dedicate their lives to the vulnerable are spared. May the civilized world unite with the Haitian people, who suffer, believe, pray, and hope for the rebirth of solidarity on our planet!”

Murders in Ethiopia

One day earlier, on February 22, 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 30 miles from the capital, Addis Ababa. The 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 able to independently verify which of the parties involved in the conflict was responsible for the killings.

AfricaHaitiPersecution of ChristiansTerrorism
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