Weekend of Gloom as Catholics Killed in Burkina Faso, Monks Abducted in Ethiopia

Pilgrims praying at the Shrine of Our Lady of Yagma in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Credit: ACN

Christians in multiple countries experienced what has been described as “a dark weekend” of persecution towards Sunday, February 25, with dozens of killings occurring in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

In Ethiopia, four Orthodox monks were killed in a February 22 kidnapping incident when armed men attacked their monastery, some 50 km from the capital of the Horn of Africa nation, Addis Ababa.

The monks belonged to the Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery of Zequala, the Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has reported of the kidnapping that the Department of Public Relations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church confirmed.

According to an ACN report, the attack on the Monastery occurred in the context of a violent ethnic struggle between the federal government and a militant group in the Ethiopia’s Oromia region.

In the Monday, February 26 report shared with ACI Africa, ACN says that it is “not in a position to independently verify who was directly responsible for the killings.”


In Burkina Faso, at least 15 Christians were killed and two wounded in an attack on Catholics in Essakane, in the country’s Catholic Diocese of Dori.

The attack, which took place on February 25, was carried out by terrorists who targeted the Catholic community during Sunday gathering for Holy Mass. 

In a statement availed to the media, the Vicar General of Dori Diocese, Fr. Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, confirmed the attack, appealing for prayers for the souls of those who, he said, “died in faith”. He also appealed for spiritual solidarity with all those in need of healing and consolation.

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 has attracted global condemnation, with Pope Francis calling for respect of sacred places.

In his Monday, February 26 telegram of condolences addressed to the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN), Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of Dori Diocese, the Holy Father also expresses his closeness and pain with the victims of the attacks.

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“Pope Francis has learned with deep affliction the tragic terrorist attack that happened in a Catholic church in Essakane on February 25, 2024, and the loss of human lives that it caused,” the telegram that was signed by the Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, read in part.

In the telegram message, the Holy Father expresses his solidarity “with the mourning of the families, showing them his closeness and his pain.”

The security situation in Burkina Faso has become drastic over the past few years, with Christians being particularly targeted by terrorist groups inspired by Islamic extremism.

The violence in the country can be seen as part of a wider conflict that involves several countries in the Sahel region, including Mali, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

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 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.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.