Over a Dozen Killed in Attack on Catholics at Mass in Burkina Faso “died in faith”: Priest

Burkina Faso Political Map. Credit: Peter Hermes Furian via Shutterstock

At least 15 Catholics attending Sunday Mass in Burkina Faso were killed when “terrorists” attacked Essakane village in the country’s Oudalan province, Northeastern region, a jurisdiction of the Catholic Diocese of Dori.

In a statement availed to the media, the Vicar General of Dori Diocese confirms the February 25 attack and appeals for prayers for the souls of those who, he says, “died in faith”. He also appeals for spiritual solidarity with all those in need of healing and consolation.

“We bring to your attention a terrorist attack which the Catholic community of Essakane village was the victim of today, February 25, while they were gathered for Sunday prayer,” Fr. Jean-Pierre Sawadogo says about the attack on the village that is in what is described as “three borders” zone near the borders of Burkina Faso with Mali and Niger.

Fr. Sawadogo adds, "In this painful circumstance, we invite you to pray for those who died in faith, for the healing of the wounded, and for the consolation of grieving hearts."

"May our efforts of penance and prayer during this blessed season of Lent obtain peace and security for our country, Burkina Faso," he implored.


According to the Vicar General of Dori Diocese, 12 Catholic worshippers were killed at the scene of the attack, while three succumbed to their injuries while receiving treatment; two others are being attended to in hospital in the country that is part of the vast Sahel region.

The Sahel region spans some 5,400 km and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean Eastward through Northern Senegal, Southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso, Southern Niger, Northeastern Nigeria, South-central Chad, and into Sudan. 

The February 25 attack is the latest in a series of the Sahel atrocities blamed on Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, reportedly active in the Sahel region, having taken over long strips of land and contributed to the displacement of millions of people in the region.

Authorities in the Sahel region have been battling against the Islamist terrorist groups since Libya’s civil war in 2011, followed by an Islamist takeover of Northern Mali in 2012. The jihadist insurgency reportedly spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger from 2015.

While some attacks have targeted Christian churches, other attacks have involved the kidnapping of members of the Clergy, women and men Religious and Seminarians.

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In his February 25 statement, the Vicar General of Dori Diocese calls for peace and security in the West African nation and denounces individuals who and groups that “continue to wreak death and desolation in our country” and appeals for prayers for their conversion.

Last year, Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of Dori Diocese expressed his solidarity with the people of God in Burkina Faso, who no longer attend Holy Mass for fear of jihadist attacks.

In an interview with the Pontifical charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, Bishop Birfuoré made reference to the large number of Catholics skipping public worship, saying, “We understand them and do not ask them to go beyond their courage.”

He confirmed reports that 50 percent of the West African country is occupied by terrorists, and many Catholic Parishes have been left abandoned as their members stay away for fear of attacks. 

In his Episcopal See, three of the six Parishes had to be abandoned for security reasons, the Local Ordinary of Dori Diocese told ACN. 


The Burkinabe Catholic Bishop who chairs the Joint Bishops' Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN), said that in his native country, terror is directed against all residents of the country “who do not profess the same Islam as the jihadists, including Muslims.”

He went on to identify the jihadist group dubbed “Support Group for Islam and Muslims” as the most notorious in the West African country, adding that the group’s “actual goal is to oppress today's society, which is a multi-religious society of dialogue and coexistence.”

In March last year, a delegation of 10 West African Catholic and Muslim religious leaders from Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Ghana visited the U.S. legislators “to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Sahel region,” the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the humanitarian arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), reported.

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