(ZENIT News / Burkina Faso, 11.20.2023).- A christian leader in Burkina Faso has said the jihadist persecution of Christians has taken a fresh turn – following the summary execution of children and expulsion of believers from a village in the north-west.
Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Prosper Bonaventure Ky of Dédougou said Islamist extremists driving Christians out of Débé marks a new development. Bishop Ky said: “There has never been anything like this before. Up until now the whole village was driven out, not just the members of a particular religion.”
Last month, the terrorists targeted Débé’s Christians, giving them a 72-hour ultimatum to leave. This followed the killing of two boys who were caught flouting the extremists’ ban on going to school.
The bishop told ACN that the terrorists closed all the schools in Débé and forbade them to continue their studies.
But, travelling under the protection of a military convoy, pupils made a 28-mile (45 km) trip to Tougan for schooling. They followed a set route, avoiding areas under extremist control.
But two school children who made their own way back from Tougan strayed into territory held by the terrorist group and were seized.
Bishop Ky said: “They led them back to their village and ordered them to open the church. There, one of the young men was shot in front of the altar and the other in front of the image of the Virgin.”
The bishop said the students were murdered for attending school in Tougan and also for being members of the village’s scout troop, which continued to meet despite being banned by the jihadists.
The scout movement is seen as connected with the Volontaires pour la Défense de la Patrie (Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland), a civilian auxiliary force set up to defend against the terrorists.
He added: “Due to the desecration of the church caused by the murders of the two young people we closed the church and moved the Blessed Sacrament to another place until a Mass of atonement can be celebrated.”
Bishop Ky said that three weeks after the killings, the extremists asked the Christians to gather in Débé’s church – saying that they wanted them to pray.
When they refused the Christians were driven out of the village.
Bishop Ky added: “The state is doing everything it can to root out the evil and drive out the terrorists. We know, however, that the solution cannot be a purely military one.
“We offer our heartfelt thanks to all the donors of ACN who support us and make it possible for us to alleviate the sufferings of the people in this difficult situation.
“We ask for prayer and implore the Lord to send peace to Burkina Faso, to West Africa and to the whole world.”
Jihadists control parts of all Burkina Faso’s provinces – there Islamic norms are forced upon locals, including women having to wear traditional Islamic dress. Violators are subject to harsh penalties, including death.
A number of towns and villages are now deserted after terrorists expelled all residents. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, there are almost 2 million internally displaced persons.