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(LifeSiteNews) — Muslim jihadists killed 15 Catholics during Sunday Mass this past weekend in the persecution-fraught African nation of Burkina Faso. 

The incident took place in the village of Essakane in the country’s Oudalan province, Northeastern region, within the Catholic Diocese of Dori. 

Father Jean-Pierre Sawadogo, vicar general of the Diocese of Dori, confirmed the Islamic attack in a statement, saying, “We bring to your attention a terrorist attack which the Catholic community of Essakane village was the victim of today, February 25, while they were gathered for Sunday prayer.” 

“In this painful circumstance, we invite you to pray for those who died in faith, for the healing of the wounded, and for the consolation of grieving hearts,” he said. “May our efforts of penance and prayer during this blessed season of Lent obtain peace and security for our country, Burkina Faso.” 

Sunday’s attack is just the latest in a long string of Islamic acts of persecution against Christians in the Sahel region of Africa, which includes Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

BBC reported that “The authorities have been battling Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, which have taken over large swathes of land and displaced millions of people in the Sahel region. In the last three years, churches have been targeted and scores of worshippers killed.” 

Reports detail that following Libya’s civil war in 2011, and the Islamist takeover of Northern Mali in 2012, the region’s spreading “jihadist insurgency spilled over into Burkina Faso and Niger from 2015.” 

Because of Islamic attacks targeting Catholics at Mass, many Catholics in Burkina Faso refrain from attending on Sundays and many parish churches have been abandoned. The situation drew comments of solidarity last year from Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré of the Diocese of Dori, who lamented the terror resulting from the persecution of Islamic jihadists. 

READ: Hundreds of Nigerian Christians killed, injured in brutal attack over Christmas 

Reports confirm that “half of Burkina Faso is outside government control” due to the atrocities of the jihadists, who have killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people. 

In the recently published Open Doors, January 2024 Report, detailing the atrocities and persecutions Christians are suffering in Burkina Faso, the international watchdog states: 

In recent years, the impact of violent Islamic militants in the country has been expanding, making their influence felt even in cities that had previously been beyond their reach. This has particularly been the case for the ‘Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims’ (JNIM).

Christians have been targeted and killed and churches have been destroyed. Christians of Muslim background are the most persecuted Christian group in the country. Similar attacks in Niger, Mali and the greater Sahel region are making the situation in Burkina Faso very serious.

Christians have been targeted in villages, churches and workplaces. Hundreds of churches have been closed due to jihadist activities. Family and community members reject converts and try to force them to renounce their Christian faith, making them afraid to express their faith in public because of such threats. The scope for religious freedom for Christians is contracting as jihadist ideologies gain traction and expand within the broader community.

READ: Priest describes brutal persecution of Christians at hands of Islamic jihadists in African nation 

Tracking the increased persecution of Christians in Burkina Faso over the last several years, and the related political instability created by two military coups in 2022, the report states that the rise in persecution is “tied to the growth of jihadist movements and the socio-economic crisis, particularly impacting Christians within the nation. The surge in violence and pressure experienced across the country, primarily targeting Christians, has been a pivotal driver behind this escalation.”  


The expanding activity of jihadist groups has resulted in the forceful closure of numerous churches and Christian educational institutions, intensifying pressure within the Christian community. The deliberate targeting and fatalities among Christians have instilled an atmosphere of fear, deterring many from attending religious services or allowing their children to pursue education in such settings.

Adding to this, jihadist factions have assumed control in various regions, supplanting governmental functions and assuming responsibility for providing essential social services. This complex situation has been further aggravated by the country’s political uncertainties, marked by military coups in January and October 2022 amid deepening security crises.

Moreover, the instability in neighboring nations like Niger and Mali has contributed significantly to the insecurity experienced within Burkina Faso.

What was once a notably tolerant society has undergone a distressing transformation, displaying heightened intolerance towards non-Muslim communities. Ethnic conflicts intertwined with religious dimensions have intensified, amplifying pressure on converts and various Christian groups. In short, Burkina Faso is looking exceedingly fragile.