By Linda Bordoni
"We are deeply saddened by this evil act,” and are praying for the souls of the dead, said the Head of Communications of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso in its message of condolences.
14 people were massacred on Sunday, in a Protestant church in Hantoukoura in the east of the country. Their pastor revealed that the church was a new church, and that it counted less than 30 faithful, most of them very young.
He told of how the group of attackers crossed the border from Niger with motorcycles. Of how they separated the men from the women, told the men to lie down on the ground, covered their heads with a cloth, then killed them one by one. Several of those murdered were children.
Bishop Justin Kientega of Ouahigouya decried the violence and said that Western governments have a responsibility to stop the flow of weapons to militants in the region.
Speaking to the charity Aid to the Church in Need, he voiced his belief that the attack is part of an attempt by radical Islamists to provoke a religious conflict in a country where Christians and Muslims have always lived peaceably side by side, and he argued that the Western world has been ignoring the plight of Christians in West Africa.
“There is an ongoing persecution of Christians. For months, we bishops have been denouncing what is happening in Burkina Faso,” Bishop Kientega said, “but nobody is listening to us.” “Evidently," he concluded, "the West is more concerned with protecting its own interests.”
Persecution, killings and displacement
Escalating violence among armed militant groups in Burkina Faso has drawn international concern, with the United Nations warning earlier this year of an “unprecedented humanitarian emergency” in the country. Nearly half a million people have been forced to flee their homes in the last five years. More than 60 Christians have been murdered in the country this year.
Pope Francis last month called for prayers and urged authorities to promote interreligous dialogue and harmony as well as provide protection for vulnerable civilians.