The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has released a report highlighting rising attacks against houses of worship and religious leaders in Burkina Faso less than two months before the upcoming presidential election in the West African country.
Once viewed as a bastion of religious tolerance and interfaith harmony in west Africa, Burkina Faso “has suddenly found itself at the epicenter of several global crises, which have contributed to the devolution of religious freedom conditions in the country,” says the independent, bipartisan federal panel in its report.
“Attacks on both Muslim and Christian houses of worship and religious leaders have spiked as jihadist and other militia groups expand their area of influence throughout the country,” it points out. “The government is struggling to rein in the violence, and poor performance and misconduct by government-affiliated forces are exacerbating the situation.”
Burkina Faso, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, has been fighting armed groups with links to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State for more than four years.
USCIRF notes that the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2019 recorded that both Muslim and Christian communities in the country had experienced “unprecedented levels” of violence, including the targeting and killing of at least 38 people based on their religious identity.
Last May, heavily armed individuals killed four people in an attack on a Catholic church in Toulfe during Mass. Last August, militants attacked a Catholic and a Protestant church, killing three people. In December, 14 people were killed when unidentified gunmen attacked a church near the border with Niger. In February, 24 more were killed, including a priest, when armed men attacked a church in Pansi.
Attacks on Christian leaders include the kidnapping of a Catholic catechist and his wife in Arbinda in May 2018 by individuals that identified as extremist fighters, the report says. In June that year, armed fighters abducted an Assembly of God pastor and three members of his family in Soum Province.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Anugrah Kumar