Pope Francis launched an appeal Wednesday on behalf of Burkina Faso, which recently witnessed the death of scores of citizens in a lethal attack presumably perpetrated by Islamic extremists.
“I address a special thought to dear Burkina Faso, who for some time has been tried by recurrent violence, and where recently an assassination attempt cost the lives of nearly a hundred people,” the pope said Wednesday following his weekly General Audience.
“I entrust to the Lord all the victims, the wounded, the numerous displaced persons and those who suffer from these tragedies,” he added.
The pope was referring to a massive November 6 attack where unidentified gunmen ambushed five buses transporting 241 workers to a gold mine operated by a Canada-based company in Burkina Faso, killing dozens of the workers.
In a nod to the presumed religious motivation behind the attacks, the pope encouraged the promotion of interreligious dialogue as a remedy to the violence.
“I appeal for the protection of the most vulnerable; and I encourage civil and religious authorities and all those who are motivated by good will to multiply efforts, in the spirit of the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Brotherhood, to promote interreligious dialogue and harmony,” he said.
As Reuters reported Tuesday, Burkina Faso “has become the focus of a determined jihadi campaign by three of West Africa’s most dangerous armed groups who have carved out influence in nearly a third of the country.”
“Militant Islamist fighters close schools, gun down Christians in their places of worship and booby-trap corpses to blow up first responders,” Reuters noted, adding that last week’s ambush on mine workers matches the modus operandi of Islamist groups.
Since 2016, “the violence has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced nearly 500,000 – most of them this year,” Reuters reported.