Pope Francis on May 13, 2019, expressed his sorrow and offered prayers for the victims of the May 12 attack on a Catholic church in Burkina Faso that killed six.
The interim director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Alessandro Gisotti, posted a tweet expressing the grief of Pope Francis. He said, “The Holy Father has learned with sorrow about the news of the attack on the church in Dablo, Burkina Faso. He prays for the victims, for their families and for the entire Christian community in the country.”
The attack took place in the small town of Dablo, about 200 kilometers north of the capital, Ouagadougou.
The faithful were leaving church around 9 a.m. when about 20 suspected jihadists on motorcycles encircled the church, Vatican News reported.
From reports by eyewitnesses, it appears that their target was the 34-year old Burkinabe priest, Father Simeon Yampa, in charge of interreligious dialogue in his diocese. When he tried to escape, the terrorists chased and killed him.
Returning to the church, they forced the faithful to lie on the ground, picked out five of them and shot them.
“Towards 9:00 am, during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic Church,” the mayor of Dablo, Ousmane Zongo, told AFP. “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.”
“They burned down the church, then shops and a small restaurant before going to the health center where they searched the premises and set fire to the head nurse’s vehicle,” Zongo said. “The city is filled with panic. People are holed up at home. Shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town.”
The government confirmed the toll of six included, including a priest, and condemning the “barbaric and cowardly attack”.
After “failing to pit communities against each other with targeted killings of traditional chiefs and community leaders, terrorist groups are now attacking religion in an evil plot to divide us”, it said in a statement.
The attack came two days after French forces rescued four hostages kidnapped in Burkina last week. Two French soldiers were killed in the action.
The Church and the entire population of Burkina Faso find themselves in a condition of extreme suffering, Fides News Agency said in a May 13 report. Terrorism and religious extremism are growing, priests are being killed, Christians abducted, and even churches that are being destroyed are not spared. In this context of violence and suffering, the general secretaries of the national and inter-territorial conferences of West Africa that constitute the RECOWA-CERAO will gather from May 13 – 20 in Ouagadougou, for the Third Plenary Assembly.
“Christians in Burkina Faso, like many others in Africa, suffer violence because of their faith. It is in this context of suffering that the Bishops of West Africa meet to bring their moral and spiritual support to Christians in particular and to the people of Burkina Faso in general in a prophetic and fraternal spirit,” said Donald Zagore, of the Society for African Missions (SMA), to Fides.
“Still today, in the name of Allah the merciful, people kill. But the truth is that Allah does not send anyone to kill on his behalf. Those who kill in the name of Allah are only criminals who deserve to be arrested and judged according to the laws in force,” the missionary continued.
“Today more than ever, the Church of West Africa through the Bishops wants to show the world that the Christians of Burkina are not and will never be alone in this fight against religious extremism. The fight will be won because we are aware of the fact that evil, whatever its content, will not have the last word in our lives, but we cannot face this challenge if our governments are not involved in a concrete and effective way.
“It is time for our regional governments to truly unite, deploying the necessary means to put an end to this human tragedy. In unity and solidarity, we will overcome religious extremism.”