News 06 Jul 2022

Burkina Faso: Murdered in front of their church

The pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) denounces yet another terrorist attack in Burkina Faso. During the night of 3 to 4 July, more than 20 Burkinabè were killed during an attack in Bourasso, in the Diocese of Nouna (north-west).

At least 22 people, perhaps more, were murdered during a terrorist account in Burkina Faso. According to witnesses, the attack took place on Sunday night.

“The terrorists entered the village of Bourasso on motorbikes around 5pm on Sunday 3 July, and went off again without doing anything… But they came back during the night, threatening the villagers in the square in front of the church,” explains one of the survivors, speaking to ACN. 

While the villagers were begging to be spared, more inhabitants came to join in the pleading, because the terrorists had already come into this village several times and had been threatening the whole region for the past two years. It was then that the armed men started shooting at the population. “They killed 14 people in front of the church,” laments a priest from the cathedral parish of Nouna, situated 20km from Bourasso. Then they went further into the center of the village and killed 20 others*, among them many Christians and followers of traditional African religion. 

The procedure followed the usual pattern: men arrived on motorbikes, two per bike, hooded and armed. “The number of the attackers is difficult to ascertain during the night, but witnesses say there were doubtless several dozen”.

“It’s terrifying,” continues the priest. “These people have nothing to do with politics or terrorist groups. They have nothing to defend themselves with when they are attacked. It’s absolute turmoil. “I’m really sad… I knew almost all the victims” says the priest, who narrowly escaped a terrorist ambush in the region on 9 May. 

Another survivor says “they came to my home and took two members of my family. They killed them before leaving. It was agonizing. I was terrified that they were going to come back and look for the rest of my family.”

On the morning of the attack, the Diocese of Nouna had celebrated a joyful Mass of thanksgiving for the ordination of two of its priests, the day before. The diocese was also giving thanks for the seven years of service of its catechist, who lives in Bourasso. Little did the parishioners know that the same night a group of faithful, including two brothers of the catechist, would be murdered by the terrorists.

“In spite of everything, we keep up our hope. We keep up our courage to live the days that God has given us,” the priest tells ACN, concluding: “Here, when you get up, you know that you are alive, but you don’t know if you will still be alive in the evening”. 

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been home to multiple terrorist attacks which the previous president, Roch Kaboré, did not manage to curb. He was overthrown in a coup on 24 January by Lieutenant Colonel Samdaogo Damiba, who promised a fierce struggle against terrorism. Currently, however, attacks continue to proliferate across the whole of Burkina Faso. 

ACN supports the Catholic Church in Burkina Faso by promoting a “return to life” for the victims of Islamist violence and displaced people. In particular, ACN finances projects aimed at healing trauma. It has likewise subsidised several radio projects which promote communication, information sharing, and pastoral work in areas where most of the population had to flee to save their lives. In 2021, ACN supported 75 projects in Burkina Faso. 

*Our sources, who asked to remain anonymous, speak of more than 30 deaths. The official communiqué of the diocese itself gave a provisional death count of 22. 

- By Amélie Berthelin 

Featured Image: Housing for internally displaced persons in Bourzanga, northern Burkina Faso. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

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