, 22 November, 2019 / 12:40 AM
Growing insecurity in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, reported by an international media as risking to become “another Syria” due to a worrying humanitarian crisis with children bearing the brunt, is a matter of great concern for African Church leaders currently in the country’s capital Ouagadougou for the weeklong Pan-African Congress on Divine Mercy.
“In the face of this disturbing wave of violence in Burkina Faso, we continue to express our strong condemnation and assure our brothers and sisters of our prayers, solidarity, communion and compassion,” the Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo told ACI Africa in an exclusive interview Tuesday, November 19 on the sidelines of the continental Congress.
“The situation is really critical, but we are counting on God’s Mercy for peace to return to our nation,” the Burkinabé Cardinal said and added, “We cannot lose hope; we are sure that together we will overcome.”
According to Cardinal Ouédraogo, “since the beginning of the terrorist attacks, many Burkinabé have been unable to cultivate or harvest and live in conditions of extreme poverty. This large-scale humanitarian crisis requires a collective consciousness to take action to save our suffering population.”
Speaking to ACI Africa on the same crisis, the Archbishop of Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga prayed that the warring factions replace weapons used in perpetrating violence with constructive tools that improve livelihood, the latter facilitated by a relationship with God.
“I think it is more than ever the time for us Africans to open our hearts to God who is ever loving and merciful. Africa needs sons and daughters who believe and who engage to transform, pacify hearts, transform hands that take up arms and give them the tools to modify their living conditions,” Cardinal Nzapalainga told ACI Africa in Ouagadougou.
“Those who take up arms to kill innocent souls are living in darkness and don’t know God. If we receive the light of Christ, we must allow ourselves to be guided by this light so that we shall be able to pass on this light to those who are living in violence and bloodshed for a change in their lives,” the Cardinal, a member of the religious and missionary Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers added.
According to the Prelate, despite the ongoing violence in Burkina Faso, “God’s love is still abundant and will bring peace, justice and reconciliation in the country and other African countries, which are also in crisis.”
The 52-year-old Cardinal appealed, “We call on those fighting to think about the welfare of the population for their actions are bringing suffering to the population.”
He prayed for those perpetrating the violence in Burkina Faso, “May God’s merciful love abide in their hearts so that they may see him in their fellow brothers and sisters.”
Following the steady deterioration of security in the West African landlocked country since 2015, the Burkinabé government enacted a state of emergency in nearly one third of all provinces in the country by the end of 2018, a step that has not yielded much as the crisis has been listed by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) among the conflicts to worry about this year.
Burkina Faso’s Minister of Territorial Administration, Decentralization and Social Cohesion, Simeon Sawadogo shared with ACI Africa the impact of the crisis in his county saying, “Since the first terrorist attacks in 2015 (to) date, our country counts more than 600 people killed, many injured, and over 500,000 internally displaced persons. Also, this situation caused the closure of over 1,000 schools thereby preventing children from going to school.”
The crisis in his country, Mr. Sawadogo told the hundreds of delegates at the opening ceremony of the Pan-African Congress on Divine Mercy Tuesday, November 19, “is also at the origin of food insecurity touching hundreds of thousands of people. It is also an igniting factor if not the cause of inter-tribal conflict.”
“The population of Burkina Faso counts on your prayers and supplication and continental solidarity and communion,” Mr. Sawadogo told ACI Africa in an interview and added, “The population of Burkina Faso also counts on your prayers for peace to return to our country. We thank the Holy Father Pope Francis for his regular prayers for peace in Burkina Faso.”
Cardinal Ouédraogo who is also the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) acknowledged the collaboration between the local Church and the government in reaching out to those affected by the crisis.
He told ACI Africa, “I called for a special collection in Parishes in August to support the victims and their families. As a result, an offertory collection was launched to support the displaced who had fled the insecure areas.”
Cardinal Ouédraogo added, “Our Caritas groups are also working daily to help these people.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa