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At Vatican’s Holy Mass for Peace in Burkina Faso, Nigerian Cardinal Reflects on Terrorism

Francis Cardinal Arinze during the Holy Mass at the Vatican to pray for peace in Burkina Faso. Credit: Vatican Media

At the Eucharistic celebration organized at the Vatican to pray for peace in Burkina Faso, Francis Cardinal Arinze reflected on terrorism in Africa, delinking the menace from religion.

In his homily during the June 19 event that took place at the altar of the Chair of St. Peter in Rome, Cardinal Arinze said, “Execrable terrorism that threatens the security of people, in the East as well as in the West, in the North as well as in the South, sowing panic, terror and pessimism, is not due to religion even if the terrorists use it as an instrument.”

“It is due to the accumulated misinterpretations of religious texts to policies that promote hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression and arrogance,” the Nigerian Cardinal said.

Making reference to Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti, Cardinal Arinze further said, “It is necessary to stop supporting terrorist movements by providing money, weapons, plans and justification and even media coverage and to consider all these as international crimes that threaten security and world peace.”

“In this context of jihadist insurgencies in sub-Saharan Africa, repeated attacks that sow violence and death, fear and anguish, the Holy Father's call in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti resounds with force,” the Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said.

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The 88-year-old Cardinal who retired in December 2008 said, “It is necessary to condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”

He appealed for prayers for the victims of terrorism in Africa saying, “We pray for the eternal rest of those killed on our continent and throughout the world.”

“We pray for the conversion of the promoters of violence and for calm and joy in society,” he implored.

Burkina Faso, one of the ten countries in the Sahel region has been facing rampant violence occasioned by political crises, which offer a fertile ground for the proliferation of extremist groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and the al-Qaeda affiliate Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin.

Earlier this month, unknown gunmen launched an attack on Solhan village the country’s Yagha Province killing at least 160 residents and injuring many others, BBC News reported, adding, “Homes and the local market were burned during the overnight raid on Solhan.”

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Described by various media outlets as the worst since 2015, the attack came at a time when Burkina Faso together with other Sahel nations had been enduring a resurgence of violence from extremists, “much of it carried out by jihadists linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State,” the New York Times has reported.

While the country had been one of West Africa’s most stable nations, Burkina Faso seems to have “been trapped in spiraling violence since jihadist groups claimed their first attacks, in 2015. Since then, the country has faced hundreds of attacks, some carried out by jihadist groups and others by local rebels,” the New York Times further indicates in the June 5 report.

Following the June 5 early morning attack on Solhan village, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with victims.

After praying the Angelus June 6, the Holy Father said, “I wish to assure you of my prayers for the victims of the massacre which took place on the night of Friday to Saturday in a small town in Burkina Faso.”

In his homily during Vatican’s Holy Mass for peace in Burkina Faso, Cardinal Arinze urged the people of God in Africa and the world “not to get tired of asking Christ for peace, for the gift of true peace, which cannot be achieved without the conversion of hearts, of my heart, of the hearts of each one of us, of the hearts of the rulers of this earth, of the hearts of terrorists and suicide bombers.”

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“Dear brothers and sisters, the Gospel invites us to be peacemakers. But it can be really difficult in the face of such situations of violence, oppression and misery,” he said.

“Let us therefore pray for justice and peace in Burkina Faso, in all of Africa and in the world, even in Nigeria,” he implored, adding, “Let us also pray for the leaders of our societies, leaders who have an important role to play.”

The Nigerian Cardinal further implored, “May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, obtain for us justice, peace and brotherly love in Christ.”