Religious Leaders in Sahel Africa Region to Discuss Security Situation with U.S Lawmakers

Map showing the Sahel region. Credit: Public Domain

Religious leaders from five African nations in the Sahel region are expected to visit lawmakers in the United States (U.S.) to address the security situation in the region.

In a report published Tuesday, March 14, officials of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) say that Catholic and Muslim religious leaders also seek to know why there is a lack of effective response to the Sahel crisis from the international community in general and the U.S. in particular.

“A delegation of 10 West African Catholic and Muslim religious leaders from Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Ghana will be visiting United States lawmakers from March 20 – 24, 2023 to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the Sahel region,” officials of the humanitarian arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) say. 

They add, “The Clerics will use the high-level meetings to discuss the lack of progress on an effective response from the U.S. and the international community.”

 During the visit, the officials of the U.S. entity say that the religious leaders will also “encourage lawmakers to take decisive action to address the underlying grievances through long-term investments in civil society, economic development, and social accountability.”


In the report, the President of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger, Bishop Laurent Dabiré, says that they are visiting the U.S. as shepherds who are exercising their obligation and rights that involve advocating for the well-being of the people of God under their pastoral care.

Sheikh Barham, the national coordinator of Niger’s inter- and intra-religious dialogue committee, says that the visit also seeks to enable partners in the U.S. “to better understand the reality we face in the Sahel, including the shop we’re building through our joint efforts.”

The March 14 report highlights factors behind conflicts in the Sahel region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean Eastward through Northern Senegal, Southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso, Southern Niger, Northeastern Nigeria, South-central Chad, and into Sudan.

The report indicates that the Sahel region has been experiencing conflicts rooted in historic grievances, unfair management of resources, poor governance, and a more recent outburst of violent extremists since January 2012.

The report further indicates that “the number of displaced persons increased by 40 percent to 2.4 million, with women and children composing more than 50% of those displaced” in the past two years.

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“Violent extremists such as the Islamic State, local self-defense groups, and gangs are increasingly terrorizing civilians through attacks, kidnappings, and the imposition of unlivable conditions,” CRS officials say.

The CRS regional program manager for the Sahel Peace Initiative (SPI) says that the people of God in the region are “living in a constant state of terror”.

“It is a slow-burning crisis in which community leaders are systematically kidnapped or assassinated, schools are closed and civilians are killed without warning,” says Patrick Williams.

Mr. Williams adds that whereas religious leaders in the Sahel region are the most trusted, he finds it regrettable that they have been “neglected by stakeholders in peace efforts.”

With the support of CRS, he says, “religious leaders have taken their share of the responsibility through the SPI.”


Mr. Williams further says that the efforts that SPI is fostering “are amplifying the peace-inspiring voice and convening power of local religious leaders, while simultaneously responding to the acute needs of displaced and vulnerable families.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.