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Burkina Faso,Mali,Niger and Chad have been on the receiving end of recurrent terrorist attacks by jihadist groups Burkina Faso,Mali,Niger and Chad have been on the receiving end of recurrent terrorist attacks by jihadist groups  (SESAME PICTURES)

Interreligious dialogue can help resolve insecurity in the Sahel

Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), has reaffirmed the Church’s preference for interreligious dialogue as an option in resolving conflicts in the Sahel region.

RecowaCerao News - Abidjan, Ivory Coast

The Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo who is also President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) has said that interreligious dialogue and Western nations stopping arms shipments to Africa, especially the troubled Sahel region, would go a long way in resolving insecurity concerns.

Africa’s Sahel region, especially Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Chad have been on the receiving end of recurrent terrorist attacks by jihadist groups.

“Interreligious dialogue holds a special place in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. It is a major pivot in resolving terrorists’ attacks in the Sahel region in particular and Africa in general,” said the SECAM President, Cardinal Ouédraogo, this week. He continued, “Interreligious dialogue constitutes the focus of our pastoral work where the different religious confessions, Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, the traditional African religions -whose customary chiefs are essentially its supporters, come together to reflect on the issues of terrorism,” explained Cardinal Ouédraogo. He was speaking on the sidelines of SECAM’s Standing Committee meeting in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Interreligious dialogue in the Sahel region is essential

Sharing his experience of interfaith dialogue, Cardinal Ouedraogo said believers of different faiths could co-exist and work together. “It is together that we try to work, to manifest our unity. To work together for our living together, in mutual respect, in mutual listening,” the Archbishop of Burkina Faso’s Ouagadougou Archdiocese noted. He added, “We try to put a lot of emphasis on internal and external solidarity at the local, regional and international level, and as a local proverb says, ‘one finger doesn’t pick up flour.’ It takes more than one finger to pick up flour. Hence the need to join forces. Both internally and externally,” the 75-year-old Burkinabe prelate emphasised.

Disruption of life in the Sahel

Security concerns in West Africa, characterised with jihadist attacks have taken a heavy toll on human life. Church leaders have understably been pre-occupied with security issues of the African Sahel region. In November 2019, the Bishops convened the first-ever Inter-Conference Workshop that brought together Catholic prelates and clerics to discuss ways of ending the violence on Christians.

The Sahel region, which encompasses Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and Eritrea has faced rampant violence. It has become fertile ground for the proliferation of extremist groups.

Christians paying a heavy price in Burkina Faso

Recounting the situation in Burkina Faso, Cardinal Ouédraogo said, “Burkina Faso, has been facing the challenges of terrorist attacks since 2015. It is already five years since these innocent populations have been mercilessly massacred. The Catholic Church has paid a heavy price. Priests, Catechists, and Christians are mercilessly killed. Protestants too have not escaped this turmoil. (Protestant) Pastors are also mercilessly killed.”

Who is paying for all the guns in the hands of jihadists?

The Church leader once again appealed to the Western powers to stop the arms trade in Africa. “I would like to call on the Western nations to stop arms trade in Africa … It is these weapons that allow jihadist groups to kill innocent populations. There are no weapons factories, no arms factories in Burkina Faso. Even in Africa, these are very few. Where do these weapons come from? Who is funding them? Who finances the guns? Who pays for all these weapons and who organises all these killings?” Cardinal Ouédraogo said.

11 March 2020, 08:40