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Bishops in Burkina Faso, Niger Express Concerns Over IDPs, Call for Peaceful Coexistence

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger (CEBN)

Bishops in Burkina Faso and Niger have, in a collective statement, raised concerns about the increasing number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) fleeing insecurity in the West African nation and called for peaceful coexistence between refugees and their host communities.

In their statement following the February 9-14 Plenary Assembly, members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger (CEBN) appeal for dialogue.

“We are concerned about the still large number of IDPs whose collaboration with their hosts is not always smooth,” CEBN members say in their statement issued February 14 and shared with ACI Africa two days later.

To ensure peaceful coexistence between IDPs and their host communities, the members of CEBN recommend strengthening of “a general dialogue” as well as an awareness campaign involving different leaders about peaceful co-existence.

Burkina Faso, which is part of the Sahel region, has been struggling with a wave of militant attacks since 2016. 

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Reviewing the situation of Africa in 2019, the head of the International Catholic pastoral charitable organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) took note of the West African countries of Nigeria and Burkina Faso, describing the year as having had a significantly high record of attacks targeting Christians across the globe.

As of 31 December 2020, the West African nation recorded 1,074,993 internally displaced persons (IDPs) – almost double the number from last December 2019, the National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR) reported.

In their February 14 collective statement, Bishops in Burkina-Niger also express their concerns about persistent insecurity in the country.

“As far as security is concerned, there is relative calm in certain areas. But the reality on the ground shows something else and the population really needs to be reassured and feel protected by the competent authority,” the members of CEBN say.

They continue, “It is necessary to work on managing the issue of stigmatization, especially in insecure areas where the resumption of activities is gradual.”

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The Catholic Church leaders in Burkina Faso and Niger invite the people of God in the country to a “frank collaboration with the defense and security forces” and urge the faithful to continue to “pray for peace in Burkina Faso and Niger.”

Last year, CEBN members expressed concerns about rising cases of insecurity in the West African country saying the situation is “more worrying than ever” and called on relevant authorities to act ahead of elections scheduled for later this year.