AFRICA/BURKINA FASO - Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “No matter how hard and long the struggle, the time of reconciliation will come”

Thursday, 18 January 2024 dialogue   ecumenicalism     jihadists  

Ouagadougou (Agenzia Fides) - The texts of the meditations, prayers and celebrations to be used by Christians around the world during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024 (January 18-25, 2024) were published this year by an ecumenical group of Burkina Faso, which was coordinated by the local movement "Chemin Neuf". The theme chosen was: "You shall love the Lord your God... and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). "Those who were involved in the drafting of the text, such as representatives of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, the Protestant "Churches, the ecumenical institutions and the Chemin Neuf community, have generously collaborated in the elaboration of the prayers and reflections, and have already seen this experience of collaboration as an authentic path of ecumenical conversion," said to Fides Teresa Francesca Rossi, theologian and co-director the "Centro Pro Unione" in Rome, a lively place of ecumenical spirituality that has been organizing meetings, training seminars and prayer meetings since the Second Vatican Council. "The group from Burkina reflected on the theme of love of God and neighbor in a situation where personal and social security is threatened," she explains. Burkina Faso is located in West Africa, in the Sahel region, whichalso includes the neighboring countries of Mali and Niger. The country covers an area of 174,000 km² and has 21 million inhabitants belonging to around 60 ethnic groups. About 64% of the population are Muslims, 9% belong to traditional African religions and 26% are Christians (20% Catholics, 6% Protestants). These three religious communities are represented in all regions of the country and in virtually every household. The country is in a serious crisis that undermines personal and social security and affects all religious communities: "Following a serious jihadist attack organized from outside the country in 2016," says the text on the occasion of the presentation of the week of Christian Unity, "security conditions in Burkina Faso and with them the country's social cohesion have deteriorated dramatically. The country is suffering from a continued increase in terrorist attacks, lawlessness and human trafficking; a situation that has resulted in more than three thousand deaths and nearly two million internally displaced people, while thousands of schools, health centers and town halls have been closed and much of the socio-economic and transport infrastructure destroyed. Targeted attacks on specific ethnic groups increase the risk of internal conflicts between communities: this security threat undermines social cohesion, peace and national unity". In this context of instability "Christian churches have also become targets of armed attacks: priests, pastors and catechists have been killed during services, and the fate of others who have been kidnapped is unknown." According to observers, more than 20% of the country's territory is outside state control. Therefore, "Christians can no longer practice their faith openly in these contexts; due to terrorism, most Christian churches in the north, east and northwest of the country have been closed, and in many of these areas there are no longer any public Christian worship services. Where worship services is still possible - usually in large cities and under police protection - the celebrations had to be shortened to ensure the safety of the believers," the text says. Hope, in a difficult situation, comes from "full solidarity between the Christian, Muslim and traditional religions, whose leaders are striving to find lasting solutions for peace, social cohesion and reconciliation. An example of this is the Catholic Commission for Christian-Muslim Dialogue of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso-Niger, which makes remarkable efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation between religions and ethnic groups". In response to the government's calls to pray for peace, social cohesion and reconciliation, individual churches continue to invite daily moments of prayer and fasting. The joint action of the various Catholic and Protestant communities to support the displaced people was also intensified, and events were organized to promote the value of fraternity and develop strategies to restore lasting peace. This hope is also reflected in the traditional saying of the Mossi, the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso: "No matter how hard and long the struggle, the time of reconciliation will come." In this context "the invitation to collaborate in the preparation of the texts for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2024," concluded Teresa Francesca Rossi, "has prompted the various churches of Burkina Faso to work together in this difficult time for the country. The love of Christ, which unites all Christians, is stronger than divisions, and the Christians in Burkina Faso are determined to walk the path of love for God and their neighbor. The baptized have firm faith that God's love will overcome the violence currently afflicting their country". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 18/1/2024)