“The terrorists have also seized livestock and are doing everything they can to get the population to either convert [to Islam] or evacuate,” he added, noting that many women are kidnapped into sex slavery while refugees are “left to wander around in the forest with no possessions, and many die due to lack of food and care.”
Burkina Faso last year topped the list of countries worldwide with the most anti-Christian attacks, Rouamba said. Regional evangelization “is recent, dating back no more than 150 years, and in most regions less than 100 years,” he said.
The priest said the religious order is working on opening a regional ministry house in the Diocese of Ouagadougou, based out of the nation’s capital of the same name. That house will work to both spread the Gospel message and train lay ministers to “send them on mission to difficult places.”
The religious order, Rouamba said, is most pointedly concerned with “forgiveness” after years of brutal religious violence in the country. “Forgetting,” he said, “is impossible.”
“This is one of the reasons why we would like to set up support units to offer spiritual and psychological support,” he said. “Many people come to us simply to be listened to.”
Rouamba described the extent of the violence that citizens of the country have witnessed. “Many people have seen their loved ones’ throats slit, beheaded, raped, or be reduced to sexual slavery,” he said. “Children have been born because of these rapes.”
“When all this is over how will we be able to have a discourse that is consistent with the Gospel?” he asked. “We will have to heal all these wounds, whether physical or psychological. The pastoral work promises to be immense.”
Aid to the Church in Need says on its website that while Burkina Faso has “long been considered an example of peaceful coexistence between religions,” since 2015 significant parts of the country have become “hotspots” of extremist violence.
As a result of the violence, “more than 1 million people are on the run, entire towns resemble ghost towns, countless parishes have been deserted, and more than 1,000 schools have been closed,” the group said.
ACN spokeswoman María Berdié told CNA the organization supported dozens of projects in Burkina Faso last year alone, including transportation for clergy and religious, “food and health security of internally displaced families,” the building of at least one church, the “formation of 27 major seminarians and 31 minor seminarians,” and numerous other initiatives.