A dark weekend of Christian persecution

Almost 30 Christians were killed or kidnapped in different incidents in three different countries over the past few days.

Fifteen Christians were killed and two wounded in an attack on Catholics in Essakane, in the Diocese of Dori, Burkina Faso.

The attack, which took place on Sunday, 25 February, was carried out by terrorists who targeted the Catholic community during the gathering for Sunday prayer.

According to information sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by the Diocese of Dori, twelve of the victims were killed during the attack, while three others died in the local clinic of their wounds.

The statement asks for prayers for the victims and their families, but also for the criminals. “At this painful time, we invite you to pray for those who have died in the faith, that they may rest in the Lord; for the healing of the wounded, and for the consolation of those who are grieving. Let us also pray for the conversion of those who continue to sow death and desolation in our country. May our efforts of penance and prayer during this blessed season of Lent bring peace and security to our country, Burkina Faso.”

Internally displaced Christians in Ouahigouya
Internally displaced Christians in Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso.

The security situation in Burkina Faso has become drastic over the past few years, with Christians being particularly targeted by terrorist groups inspired by Islamic extremism. The violence in the country can be seen as part of a wider conflict that involves several countries in the Sahel region, including Mali, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

More kidnappings in Haiti

The massacre in Essakane came on the heels of disturbing news from Haiti, in the Caribbean, where six male religious and one priest were kidnapped in two separate incidents in the capital city of Port-au-Prince on Friday, 23 February.

The six members of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart were abducted while on their way to the John XXIII School, run by the order. A teacher who was with them was also taken.

“In view of this painful event, the John XXIII institution is closing its doors until further notice. The other institutions of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart throughout the country will continue the work of raising awareness among the new generation of the values of living together in harmony, with a view to the emergence of a new society that is more humane, more caring and more united”, said the congregation, in a statement sent to ACN.

Only a few hours later a priest was also kidnapped in Port-au-Prince. He was taken from his parish, among some of the faithful, soon after having finished saying morning Mass. According to local sources they were liberated on the same day.

The security situation in Haiti is very poor, as society in general deals with the total breakdown of the state and regular institutions. Despite the tireless work done by the Church, clergy and religious have not been spared from the violence led by armed gangs. These latest kidnappings took place less than a month after a group of six religious sisters were also abducted, only to be released the following week, while Bishop Pierre André Dumas, of the Diocese of Anse-à-Veau/Miragoâne, was badly injured in an explosion that affected the house he was staying in, while in the capital. It is not clear if the explosion was caused by criminal activity, or by a gas leak, and the bishop is in stable condition and recovering well from his wounds in a hospital in the United States.

December 2010 election - Street protests in Haiti.
December 2010 election – Street protests in Haiti.

In its statement following the kidnapping of its six members, the Congregation of the Sacred Heart said: “We firmly believe that our compassionate God will change the hearts of stone of those who sow desolation into hearts of flesh for a revolution of love in Haiti. For several years now, absurd and unjustified violence has descended on the peaceful Haitian people, and not even those who dedicate their lives to the cause of the most vulnerable are spared. May the civilised world unite with the Haitian people, who suffer, believe, pray and hope for the rebirth of solidarity on our planet!”

Murders in Ethiopia

During the weekend, ACN received word of another tragedy that occurred on Thursday, 22 February, this time in Ethiopia, where four monks were kidnapped and murdered by armed men.

The monks belonged to the Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery of Zequala, just 50 km from the capital, Addis Ababa. This sad news was confirmed by the Department of Public Relations of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The attack on the Monastery occurred in the context of a violent ethnic struggles between the federal government and a militant group in the country’s Oromia region, though ACN is not in a position to independently verify who was directly responsible for the killings.


By Filipe d’Avillez.

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