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Burkina Faso was once considered an example of peaceful coexistence between religions (OSV News/Joe Penney, Reuters)

At least 15 people were killed in an attack by gunmen on Catholics gathered for Mass in a Burkina Faso village on Sunday, according to multiple news reports. Source: OSV News.

Twelve Catholics were dead at the scene in the village of Essakane, with another three dying while being treated at a health centre and two others wounded, according to a statement from Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of the Diocese of Dori in Northern Burkina Faso, which includes Essakane.

“In these painful circumstances, we invite you to pray for the eternal rest of those who have died in the faith, for the healing of the wounded and for the consolation of sorrowful hearts,” the bishop said in the statement, written in French and shared on the bishop’s behalf by Fr Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, the diocese’s vicar general.

“We also pray for the conversion of those who continue to sow death and desolation in our country. May our efforts of penance and prayer during this period of Lent bring peace and security to our country, Burkina Faso,” the bishop said.

According to AP, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but jihadis who have perpetuated similar violence are suspected of carrying it out. Christians in Burkina Faso have been increasingly targeted in recent years by terrorist groups amid political and social upheaval.

Burkina Faso is located in Africa’s Sahel region, which separates North Africa from Sub-Saharan Africa and has one of the largest Christian communities in the region.

Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic organisation that assists the Church in places where Catholics are threatened by persecution and poverty, notes that the West African nation was long “considered an example of peaceful coexistence between religions.” Of its population of 21 million, about 25 per cent is Christian, and 60 per cent is Muslim.

“Since 2015, however, the northern and eastern parts of the country have become a hotspot of violent extremists,” Aid to the Church in Need reports, adding that “Burkina Faso is now the main theatre of jihadist terror in the Sahel,” the band of savanna that spans the width of Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.


At least 15 Catholics are dead from horrific Mass attack in Burkina Faso (OSV News)