Those Martyrs Who Don’t Make the News. A Testimony From Burkina Faso
The killing of Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi does not by any means allow the letting down of one’s guard on the aggressiveness of the countless armed units that take their inspiration from Islamist fundamentalism.
Aid to the Church in Need, the foundation of pontifical right engaged in supporting persecuted Christians all over the world, published a few days ago an update on the twenty countries in which religious persecution today is the most severe.
They are the countries colored red on the map reproduced above. In sixteen out of twenty, what is raging is terrorism of Muslim origin. And in eight of these sixteen countries, the aggression against Christians has over the past year become even more relentless.
These eight countries are Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Philippines.
It is not in the Middle East, therefore, that Islamist terrorism is most rampant today, but in Asia and even more so in sub-Saharan Africa. Exactly as preached by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in his last video this past April 29, in which he claimed that the Islamic State was responsible for the massacre in Sri Lanka a few days before, with 258 dead and 500 wounded in three Christian churches on the morning of Easter.
More detailed news on each of the twenty countries can be found in the dossier put online by Aid to the Church in Need:
The bitter development of this map of terror is indeed presented by its expansion in Africa, as also proven by this other report from the director of “Analisi Difesa,” the web magazine that specializes in theaters of war and military questions:
And among African countries, the latest to be invaded by armed jihadists is Burkina Faso, with a crescendo of aggression this year, almost all of it aimed at Christian communities.
But now let’s hear from a direct witness of this martyrdom unknown to most, Roger Kologo, a priest of the diocese of Dori, typical mission territory, with an overwhelming Muslim majority and a tiny minority of Catholics.
Roger Kologo gave this touching testimony last October 24 at a meeting organized by Aid to the Church in Need, at the Roman basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island, dedicated to today’s Christian martyrs.
“It was Good Friday. And they mingled their blood with that of the Crucified”
by Roger Kologo
The diocese of Dori is one of the fifteen dioceses of Burkina Faso. Because of its geographical placement on the border with Mali and Niger, and of endogenous factors, beginning in November of 2015 it was the first to be hit by Islamist terrorism, and the one that has suffered the largest number of attacks.
In 2018, several Christians were killed in the village of Tabramba and it was clear immediately that their murder had been motivated by their leadership role in the local community.
There followed the abduction of a catechist couple – Matthew Sawadogo and his wife – as well as of an evangelical pastor who was kidnapped with his whole family on the day of Pentecost, May 20 2018, in the village of Basneere. They would be released four months later, with the exception of two young sons who were kept to be turned into fighters for the jihad.
From then on the incursions of armed men into the villages, with the imposition of observing a rigorous Islam, became more frequent. On January 1 2019 a violent inter-community conflict broke out that marked the shift that led to the current situation.
Subjected to threats and attacks, some villages of the province of Soum were emptied of their inhabitants. In these villages lived the main rural communities of the diocese. The bishop, at the end of January, had to close the parish of Arbinda, while in the parishes of Gorom-Gorom and Djibo pastoral outreach had to be reduced to a few locations.
With courage, nonetheless, the pastor of Djibo, Fr. Joël Yougbare, continued to go to some villages to visit the communities of the faithful. He realized that he had been followed more than once by terrorists. And unfortunately on March 17 2019 around 5 pm, while he was coming back from one of these visits, he was caught and taken to a secret location. I too had arrived in his parish the evening before, on March 16, for a Caritas meeting, and I was worried when at dinner he told me that the following day he would travel to meet with another community of the faithful. Fr. Yougbare was a “Fidei Donum” priest, vowed to missionary work. The growth of the Christian communities was his first concern (2 Cor 11:28). We continue to pray to the Lord that we may find him again, alive.
The persecution of Christians has become even more evident since last April 19, Good Friday. In the village of Djika the community had gathered at 4 pm to celebrate the Passion of the Lord. A quarter of an hour later the chapel was surrounded by armed men who interrupted the celebration and burned the altar decorations and the song books. Then they made the faithful leave, separated the adult men from the women and from the elderly before opening fire on the group of adult men, killing four of them and thus mingling their blood with that of the Crucified. The community buried its dead before abandoning the village in search of a safer place.
Ten days later, on Sunday April 28, in Silgagji, another attack hit a Protestant church. The terrorists followed the same procedure, killing the pastor and five of the faithful. Two weeks later, on Sunday May 12, there was an attack on the parish church of Dablo, in the diocese of Kaya. The priest who was celebrating Mass was murdered together with five of his faithful. The next day in the nearby city of Zimtanga, in the diocese of Ouahigouya, a procession was stopped, four Christians were killed, and a statue of the Virgin was destroyed. All of this in 24 hours and within a radius of 25 miles. The same scenario was then repeated in Toulfe, also in the diocese of Ouahigouya, sixty miles away, where four persons lost their lives on May 26.
Unfortunately, we have reached a stage where Christians have become hunting targets, and the faithful are even taken in their homes and executed. In the diocese of Dori, the delegate of the community of Essakane was killed in precisely this way: one evening some men asked why he had not fasted and prayed like them during the month of Ramadan. Then they went to his house and killed him. In the diocese of Ouahigouya these kinds of executions are even more numerous. In the villages that have now fallen into the most complete insecurity, our brothers in faith are clearly identified targets, and are killed simply because they are Christian. Since the beginning of the year more than sixty of the faithul, in Burkina Faso, have been killed on account of their faith.
I cannot finish without remembering Fr. César Fernandez, a Salesian missionary from Spain, who was killed on February 15 on the border with Togo. And together with him it is also right to remember all of those, not baptized, who have been killed because they belonged to the local leadership or because they opposed terrorist violence, like the 16 Muslims killed in their mosque on October 11.Condividi:
- 08 novembre 2019