Amid Insecurity in Burkina Faso, Christians “live their faith, whatever the cost”: Bishop

Bishop Laurent Dabire of Burkina Faso's Dori Diocese

A Catholic Bishop serving in Burkina Faso has, in an interview, acknowledged the faith, the “perseverance and resilience” of the people of God in the West African nation amid threats of insecurity arising from the Sahel crisis. 

“Our faithful have a great spirit of perseverance and resilience. They continue to live their faith, whatever the cost,” Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of the Diocese of Dori has been quoted as saying in the Wednesday, February 24 interview report by Aid to the Church (ACN) International. 

Since 2015 when the insecurity crisis began, “Not once have we heard of any case of desertion, abandonment or apostasy,” Bishop Dabiré whose Diocese is located in Northern Burkina Faso, which is part of the Sahel region, says in the report obtained by ACI Africa. 

According to the Bishop who doubles as the President of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN), “The faithful are fleeing the terrorism, which they are powerless to resist, but they are keeping their faith. Even when the terrorists have threatened people, trying to force them to convert, they have not succeeded.” 

“The people have simply fled, bringing their faith with them.” The Burkinabé Bishop adds.


In the interview with ACN’s Maria Lozano, Bishop Dabiré describes the impact of the crisis on the people of God under his pastoral care saying, “The Parishes of Aribinda and Gorgadji remain completely cut off and there is no pastoral activity there whatsoever.” 

“In these two areas the central Parishes have been emptied of Christians and the villages served by them, where there are still a few Christians remaining, are inaccessible owing to the danger of travelling on the roads,” the 55-year-old Bishop says.

He adds, “The parish of Djibo is operating at a minimal level, thanks to the presence of one catechist.”

The CEBN President goes on to highlight the plight of the faithful in Dori, Gorom-Gorom and Sebba Parishes, which are the only operational ones in the Diocese and where “pastoral activities are restricted to the Parish centers” amid insecurity.

In these three Parishes, “there has been some cooling off on the part of some of the faithful who, for fear of the attacks, are no longer coming to Sunday Mass,” a tendency the Bishop says is also noticeable in other pastoral activities. 

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In the wake of this reality, Bishop Dabiré says that pastoral agents in his Diocese located in Northern Burkina Faso are developing strategies to “encourage and support weaker members of the community.” 

A landlocked country of 19.75 million people, Burkina Faso, in 2016, joined the list of Sahel countries under attack from armed militant groups domiciled in Mali but also operating from other countries. 

The Sahel region, which spans 5,400 km encompassing Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and Eritrea, has been facing rampant violence facilitated by political crises in the countries, which offer a fertile ground for the proliferation of extremist groups. 

Since 2016, three major Islamist militant groups namely, Ansarul Islam, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM), and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) have camped in the Northern and Eastern part of the country, from where they launch attacks. 

According to Bishop Dabiré who has been at the helm of Dori since he was ordained a Bishop in May 2013, the territory of his Diocese “has suffered at least ten incidents of terrorist attacks, from 10 September 2020 right up to the present day.” 


Nonetheless, the Bishop says, “these attacks have diminished in number and are causing fewer deaths. So, it could be said that the security situation has improved, although it is still impossible to travel in certain areas, which remain dangerous owing to the presence or operations of the terrorist groups.”

Amid the crisis, the Diocese continues “to function and guarantee a Catholic presence in the Sahel, albeit in a smaller area and with difficulty,” the Burkinabé Bishop says in the February 24 interview report by the Pontifical Foundation, which envisions a world in which Christianity can thrive everywhere. 

“Our Priests organize the Masses, catechesis, the sacraments and the pastoral meetings on a daily basis,” he says and notes that Religious Sisters, with the exception of members of two communities that have been closed due to the insecurity, continue to take care of other facilities of the Diocese such as schools, orphanage, health centers and guest houses. 

The Catholic Nuns also help with the pastoral activities such as “catechesis, liturgy, supporting the Catholic Action movements and the spiritual groups and associations,” the Bishop who has been at the helm of the two-nation Episcopal Conference since 2019 says. 

On their part, catechists in the “still functioning parishes” have devoted “themselves to catechesis in the local languages, to the liturgy and above all to animating the basic Christian communities to which they belong,” the Bishop adds. 

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On the situation in neighboring country of Niger, which is also affected by the crisis and whose Bishops are members of CEBN, Bishop Dabiré says he has “very little news from there” though “attacks have continued there as well, often with high numbers of deaths.” 

Just like in Burkina Faso, a combination of the insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic has also slowed pastoral activities in Niger, a situation the CEBN President says has prevented two Bishops from the country from participating in episcopal assemblies since February 2020. 

The crisis notwithstanding, “our hope will not be disappointed,” Bishop Dabiré says in the February 24 ACN interview report, making reference to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.