Murder of two scouts and expulsion of suffering Christians in the North-West of Burkina Faso
Terrorists have forced the Christian population of Débé in Burkina Faso to leave their village. Earlier they shot dead two scouts in the village church who resisted their orders. This incident was reported by Bishop Prosper B. Ky during a visit to the international headquarters of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
In the middle of October, the terrorists gave the Christians of Débé, a village in north-west Burkina Faso, a 72-hour ultimatum to leave their village. “There has never been anything like this before,” said Bishop Ky from the Diocese of Dédougou. “Up until now the whole village was driven out, not just the members of a particular religion.”
For almost a decade, Burkina Faso has been subjected to Islamist-linked terrorism. The terrorist attacks began in the North of Burkina Faso and today are more common in some regions than others, but no province of the country has been spared. According to Bishop Ky, the terrorists, who in Burkina Faso are called unidentified armed men – hommes armés non identifiés – are having a decisive influence on the daily lives of the inhabitants of some villages. They force men to wear trousers to their ankles and women to wear long clothes and veils. The population lives according to the rules imposed by the terrorists out of fear of punishment, which can even mean execution.
Tragic Escalation of Violence
The bishop said the terrorists in Débé have, among other things, forbidden all contact with Tougan, a town 45 km away where the Burkinabe army is located. Yet at the beginning of the school year the children of Débé had to go to Tougan, because the terrorists had closed the schools in the village. Young people accompanied them there under the protection of a military convoy, said Bishop Ky. However, two of these young people – scouts from Débé – returned alone without avoiding the area controlled by the terrorists. So they were discovered and held by the armed groups. “They took them back to their village, ordered the church to open, and shot dead one of the young people in front of the altar, the other in front of the statue of Mary,” said the bishop emotionally.
According to the bishop, the young people were murdered first and foremost because of their disobedience to the orders of the terrorists, who had prescribed the route to Tougan, and secondly due to their membership of the scouts, who had, despite a ban, continued their activities in the village. These activities, according to the bishop, gave them the appearance of the Volunteers for the Defence of the Fatherland – Volontaires pour la défense de la patrie (VDP). The Burkinabe government set up this group to support the army and the police in the fight against the terrorists.
“Due to the desecration of the church caused by the murders of the two young people we closed the church and moved the Blessed Sacrament to another place until a Mass of atonement can be celebrated,” said the bishop. This measure obviously aroused the resentment of the terrorists and was not without consequences. Bishop Ky shared the testimony of a Christian who has fled from Débé: “Three weeks after the murder of the two young people, armed men came back and asked us to pray in the church, even though it was desecrated. We refused, and that was why we were driven out of the village.”
Many towns and villages in Burkina Faso now stand empty because of the expulsions caused by the terrorists. As Bishop Ky reported, internally displaced people roam the streets with all their worldly goods looking for somewhere to stay. In the Diocese of Dédougou there are hundreds of thousands of them, and the life of the Church is deeply affected.
“The State is doing everything it can to root out the evil and drive out the terrorists. We know, however, that the solution cannot be a purely military one. We offer our heartfelt thanks to all the donors of ACN who support us and make it possible for us to alleviate the sufferings of the people in this difficult situation,” said the bishop. “We ask for prayer and implore the Lord to send peace to Burkina Faso, to West Africa and to the whole world.”