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Bishops in Burkina Faso Condemn Attack on Military, Call for “true, constructive dialogue”

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger (CEBN). Credit: Fr. Paul Dah

Catholic Bishops in Burkina Faso have, in collective statement, condemned the recent attack on the Inata military police camp.

In their November 20 statement, members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger (CEBN) make reference to the November 14 attack, and appeal for a conversation that will be productive to end insecurity in the West African nation.

At least 53 people, including 49 military police and four civilians were killed in the terrorist attack against the detachment of the Inata gendarmerie, in Soum province in the Sahel region, VOA News reported.

In their collective statement, CEBN members say they have followed with “great concern the strong and sudden deterioration of the security situation in our country for some time.”

"This observation requires us to promote a true and constructive dialogue, because without dialogue we cannot solve any problem, let alone the delicate issue of the security crisis and its consequences," they say in their November 20 statement signed by CEBN President, Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré. 

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They add that the West African nation can only get out of its current predicament through combined efforts. 

The Catholic Bishops recommend that the proposed dialogue be held among the civilian population, civil society organizations, political parties, military, customary and religious authorities and also between the government and the people. 

"Through these different bodies and levels, a sincere and common search for the good of our country can only help us to make the relevant diagnoses that will enable us to lay the foundations for an efficient approach capable of averting the misfortune that has struck our country," they say. 

The November 14 attack is reported to be the deadliest in the West African country’s security forces since the battle between the government and armed groups linked to Islamic State, al-Qaida and local bandits began in 2017.

President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré decreed three days of national mourning for the victims of the attack. 

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President Kaboré further deplored “dysfunctions at a significant level within the army, mentioning in particular problems with food supplies.”

“This is unacceptable and that is why I understand very well the different reactions of anger that are expressed," President Kaboré said.

In their collective statement, the Catholic Bishops in Burkina Faso "strongly condemn" the attack which triggered demonstrations across the West African nation. 

On November 16, hundreds of Burkinabes took to the streets in several cities of the country, demanding for the resignation of the executive for what they described as the "inability to put an end to terrorist attacks." 

The Catholic Bishops say the demonstrations "express the frustration and incomprehension of the population in the face of what clearly appears to be the powerlessness of the state to guarantee the basic right to protect human life and the integrity of our territory.”

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They also describe the protests as “understandable because they reflect a refusal to passively watch our country disintegrate and large-scale murders become commonplace.”

The Catholic Church leaders however urge the Burkinabe to act with "prudence, discernment and moderation” while picketing. 

They further urge the government to communicate "courageously and transparently" about the country’s security situation "in order to create the unity desired by all." 

“The quality of the government's communication will help to calm hearts and minds, and will help to better understand the complexity of the situation, which effectively requires this sacred union,” CEBN members say in their November 20 statement.

“That is why we want to invite you to safeguard the essential and to prioritize the best interests of the nation, despite the legitimate indignation that one may feel,” they say.

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While extending their sympathy to all the Burkinabe who lost their loved ones in the November 14 attack, CEBN members pray for the eternal rest of the soldiers who died on the battlefield. 

"May he welcome them into his peace and, through the closeness of the whole Nation, console the widows and orphans, grant a speedy recovery to the wounded and bring home those who are displaced,” they say. 

The Catholic Bishops also call on the citizens of the West African nation “not to lose hope for there is still a common good that brings us together (which is our reason for living) and for which we must not stop fighting.”

“We must therefore remain hopeful because our common history teaches us that in the critical situations in which our country has stumbled, our predecessors have always been able to draw strength from our common heritage to unite in order to build it and meet the challenges of their time,” the Catholic Bishops add.

Addressing themselves to Christians in Burkina Faso, CEBN members say there is need to “intensify their prayers to implore God's help for our nation."

"Let each one pray according to his or her spiritual sensitivity to obtain from God the end of the scourge of terrorism," they say, and invite the Catholic faithful to “participate more frequently in the Eucharist, especially on Sundays and feast days.”

The Catholic Bishops recommend that the “Our Father - Ave Maria - the prayer to Saint Joseph or the prayer for Burkina Faso and Gloria be said at the end of Holy Mass for peace in Burkina Faso."

CEBN members also recommend “Eucharistic adoration and the Rosary as well as novenas.”

“May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and St. Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, accompany with their powerful intercession our country in its quest for reconciliation, justice and true and lasting peace,” they implore.