Security in northern Burkina Faso has drastically deteriorated in recent months. Armed groups are creating a reign of terror over the entire population, demanding taxes, looting, and robbing people in many parts of the country.
The latest testimonies from displaced people gathered by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in the diocese of Dori indicate that some of them have been targeted by terrorist attacks because of their Christian faith.
The modus operandi of the terrorists when they arrive in the villages is to demand “taxes” per head of cattle. They go to the cattle herders who keep the flock and ask for the owners of the flocks. If they are unable to pay the taxes, the extremists impound the animals.
The ACN has received reliable reports from local sources that in recent weeks reporting that there have been cases where terrorists have first asked whether the owner was a Christian or a Muslim.
According to witnesses who experienced the latest attacks in the Sahel region, in northern Burkina Faso, “if the owners were Christians the attackers didn’t consider it necessary to count their animals, because they said that they didn’t just want to take their animals, but also to kill the owners.”
According to reports received by ACN, during the last week of October, a total of 147 people - including eight pregnant women and 19 children under the age of five - had to flee two villages on the border with Niger, that the foundation does not want to identify for obvious security reasons.
Displaced people are seeking refuge in Dori, the capital of the Sahel region. Many of them said they had been recognized as Christians and the terrorists were specifically looking for them in order to kill them for this reason.
Msgr. Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré, Bishop of Dori told ACN that there are “attacks, kidnapping, and murders in the whole country. The terrorists are kidnapping whoever they want to, executing some and liberating others.”
According to the bishop, the terrorists control several lines of communication and frequently attack the defense and security forces. “Last Sunday, 31 October, the terrorists turned back the regular buses which were on the way from Dori to Ouagadougou, saying that from now on the road was blocked,” he told ACN.
“Dori runs the risk of being cutting off from the rest of the country, and the situation is not getting better. It is really dangerous to travel by private vehicle or public transport and people are afraid of being stopped on the way by an unexpected terrorist checkpoint. Please pray for the sad and dramatic situation in my diocese. The danger is growing all the time. We hope that those who have not managed to leave the endangered villages are able to do safely in the coming days,” said Msgr. Laurent Dabiré.
In the diocese of Dori, the vast majority of the population is Muslim (95.2%). 3.2% are of traditional religion and 1.6% are Christians (1.22% Catholics). Over the past 5 years, ACN has supported 28 projects in the Diocese of Dori for more than half a million euros to support the pastoral care of the Church and launch emergency aid programs for displaced priests, religious, and families of catechists.