By Vatican News staff writer
Burkina Faso has been facing a worsening security crisis amid increased activities of extremist groups carrying out violent attacks and kidnappings in the Sahel region. Despite the presence of the UN, regional and other international forces in the Sahel, the violence has led to the death of thousands and has forced an estimated 1.4 million people in the region to become displaced.
The situation is cause for concern for both civil and Church authorities who are taking steps to respond to the situation.
“The security situation in the country is getting worse every day, armed groups are advancing, there are attacks against the army, and the population is subject to its will” said Fr. Etienne Tandamba, a priest of the diocese of Fada N’Gourma, in a recent interview with RECOWA-CERAO, the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa.
“Kidnapping and confiscation of property take place every day,” reported the priest. “Some areas are inaccessible. Schools remain closed, as do some chapels, and the state of the city administration is precarious". Government seems to have lost control of the situation.
Church at work in Burkina Faso
Despite the concerning situation, Fr. Tandamba notes that “the Church is resilient” and “continues to pray and find ways and means to announce the good news and care for Christian communities.”
“We continue to make great sacrifices to help the poor and needy, especially the internally displaced,” said Fr. Tandamba who is also the Director of Communication of Burkina Faso’s Fada N’Gourma Diocese. He added that through the radio and other forms of communication, the Church in Burkina Faso seeks to bring about “social cohesion and religious tolerance as well as dialogue.”
The Burkinabe priest went on to reflect on the Year of St. Joseph, noting that it has inspired a lot of initiatives at the diocesan and parish levels, including providing a “pastoral opportunity for family care,” devotional prayers and pilgrimages for the Christians in the diocese who, he affirms, are “very dynamic.”
“Our challenges are great, but we believe we shall overcome,” he said, on a hopeful note.
Meanwhile, many Burkinabe citizens are mounting pressure on government to take steps to restore adequate security levels for the population, some of whom have died during attacks by extremists, or have been affected by the violence.
For years, Burkina Faso, which is located in the Sahel’s volatile tri-border area that joins the country’s frontier with neighbouring Mali and Niger has battled with insecurity. The vast arid area has been over-run by extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic state.
On Tuesday, the government buried many of the 49 military police officers who were killed on 14 November in a strike by suspected jihadists on a military outpost near the northern Burkinabe town of Inata. Four civilians were also killed in that deadly attack.
Further underscoring the insecurity, authorities on Tuesday said that at least 19 people including 9 security force members had been killed by suspected extremists during a separate attack in Foube, in the Center-North region. A healthcare center was also burned down in the attack and a staff member of the aid group “Médecins Sans Frontières” (MSF) was left injured.
Reacting to the incident in a statement, the aid group decried the situation of insecurity in the country and lamented the attack that left the health post destroyed and unable to treat patients. MSF noted that “in a humanitarian crisis such as this one, medical needs are largely unmet, and people are trapped in the conflict. It is therefore imperative to protect medical assistance, as well as patients and medical staff, in all circumstances.”