By Linda Bordoni
West African church leaders are calling for unity to counteract the violence perpetrated against Christian churches and communities in the region and build a peaceful society.
Burkina Faso and Niger, in particular, are reeling from a spate of jihadist attacks against Catholics in which many have died and churches and catholic symbols have been destroyed.
In the past week at least 10 people, including a priest, were killed by unknown assailants during attacks against Catholics in Burkina Faso, while a priest in Niger was injured in his parish in Niamey Diocese close to the Burkina Faso border.
Gathered in Ouagadougou for its 3rd Plenary Assembly, Bishops of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) said it is “together, in synergy, that violence will be overcome and that the people will emerge victoriously”.
The Plenary is taking place in Burkina Faso’s capital city from 13 to 20 May. It was scheduled to focus on the theme of ‘New Evangelization and Integral Human development in the Church’, but issues pertaining to the violence have taken center stage.
Noting that his brother bishops are present for the plenary present despite the current climate of insecurity, the Archbishop of Ouagadougou and President of the Burkina Faso-Niger Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, said “The presence of the Bishops of our sister Churches demonstrates the living solidarity between the communities of West Africa and the world.”
“The Lord is here with us and we will win”, he said
The Church's contribution to peace and social cohesion
Some civil authorities are also present at the meeting. One representative of the Economic Community of West African States praised the Church's intention to contribute to peace and social cohesion.
“This effort is all the more necessary”, he said, because, as the President of Burkina Faso said following the recent attacks, “terrorists are trying to unleash inter-municipal and now inter-religious conflicts”.
“Christians have been killed for their faith, without any other reason, by people who have no morals or ethics,” he said.