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Burkina Faso: Murdered in front of their church

Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN-AED) denounces yet another terrorist attack in Burkina Faso. During the night of July 3 to 4, 2022, more than 20 Burkinabè were killed during an attack in Bourasso in the Diocese of Nouna (northwest).

Pilgrims praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Yagma.

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

 “The terrorists entered the village of Bourasso on motorbikes around 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 3, and left 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 20 km from Bourasso. Then they went further into the village centre and killed 20 others*, among them many Christians and followers of traditional African religion.

Distribution of food for people displaced by terrorist attacks.

The procedure followed the usual pattern: men arrived on motorbikes, two per bike, hooded and armed. “The number of attackers was difficult to ascertain at that time of night, but witnesses say there were undoubtedly 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 himself on May 9.

Another survivor says: “They came to my home and took two members of my family. They killed them before leaving. It was agonising. 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 that same night, a group of faithful, including two brothers of the catechist, would be murdered by the terrorists.

Child in a refugee camp near the capital, Ouagadougou.

“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.”

ACN stands with victims of terrorism

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been home to multiple terrorist attacks which the previous president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, did not manage to curb. He was overthrown in a coup on January 24 by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who promised a fierce fight 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 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.

A cross that was broken during the terrorist attack on the Fada N’Gourma seminary last February.

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

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