Message from the bishops, priests, and lay delegates of the Conferences of Catholic Bishops of Burkina-Niger, Ivory Coast, and Ghana

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To the faithful in Christ, men and women of good will, who love justice and peace:

1.Given the gravity of the security and humanitarian situation facing the populations of their respective countries, the bishops, priests, and lay delegates of the Conferences of Catholic Bishops of Burkina-Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Ghana met at Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on November 12 and 13, 2019, in a climate of prayer and reflection, to assess the extent of the crisis and further their own contribution to the efforts already made to help affected populations.

2.The crisis that has been going on for several years in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger is rooted in a variety of causes, from within and without: history, identity, culture, religion, economy, territory, ideology, politics, or geostrategy.

3.The crisis is manifested mainly in daily violations of fundamental human rights: violation of the right to life, characterized by massacres of the populations; violation of the right to religious freedom, resulting in attacks targeting places of worship, religious leaders, or members of specific religious denominations; violation of the right to education for all, resulting in the closure of schools; violation of the right to property, characterized by forced expropriation; and violation of the right to live in a secure and peaceful environment.

Many civilians, as well as Defense and Security Forces, have paid a heavy price in this increasing violence. Such violations are an affront to human dignity, heightening inter-community tensions, threatening community life, and leading to psychoses within populations and massive displacement of populations – everything needed to stir up an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in these countries.

4.The crisis is favored or fueled by many factors: the poverty and lack of education of the populations; bad governance; corruption; radicalization and religious intolerance; trafficking in arms and narcotics; predation of natural resources by internal as well as external actors, both private and state; and the weakening of the Sahel States and the annihilation of local development initiatives by these same actors.

5.Many initiatives to relieve the suffering of the populations have already been undertaken by states, by the international community, by private, public, denominational, and civil-society structures, as well as by individuals of good will. Unfortunately, though laudable, these fall short of expectations, especially since the humanitarian crisis and insecurity continue to worsen and increase.

6.Faithful to the mission received from her Divine Founder Jesus Christ, a mission whose ultimate expression is that of making known to every man and woman the immeasurable love of  God, who wants only the joy and happiness of humankind, and of bringing all peoples together in a universal fraternity based on our common identity – our humanity – the Church cannot remain insensitive to the scale and the consequences of the drama in which these populations are immersed.

Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts”(Gaudium et Spes, #1).

7.That is why we, the archbishops and bishops, the priests, and the lay delegates of the Conferences of Catholic Bishops of Burkina-Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Ghana, launch this urgent appeal to the following –

Perpetrators of attacks and massacres: to put an end to these out of respect for life, which is a sacred gift from God that no one can dispose of, whatever may be their ambition or their ethnic, cultural, political, or religious affiliation;

Public authorities: to make the protection of populations the first priority; to promote good governance; and to translate into concrete actions the fight against corruption and the fair distribution of wealth;

Leaders of religious communities: to educate in respect for human life; to preserve religious freedom and the human and spiritual values ​​common to everyone created by God; and to promote interreligious dialogue;

International actors: to respect the right of peoples to dispose of their local natural resources for their own development; to stop the activities of predation or plunder of natural resources; to put an end to the inequitable agreements plaguing the development of States; and to end the sale of weapons feeding conflict, destabilizing States, and inciting attacks that sow desolation within  populations;

Diplomatic missions within the Sahel countries: to promote a true partnership respectful of international law and frank cooperation among peoples;

Sister Conferences of Bishops: to hear the call of the poorest and most vulnerable; and to promote greater solidarity in the fight for the protection of life and the defense of human dignity in countries affected by conflict, through awareness raising, advocacy, and development of concrete solidarity initiatives with all those affected by crises;

The affected populations: to remain dignified and maintain confidence without giving in to either hatred or revenge;

NGOs and all those of good will, whether individuals or organizations: to work for a world of justice and peace.

8.We reaffirm our commitment to collaborate with all those of good will so that, as a matter of urgency, we may bring an end to the killings and displacement of populations; so that the root causes may be eradicated; so that the victim populations may not be abandoned to themselves, but that their material, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual care may be assured; and so that work may be undertaken for effective conflict prevention and for lasting peace and living together, in particular through the practice of dialogue, justice. and reconciliation.

We implore God’s blessing on all of you and on the people of the Sahel,

May Mary, Our Lady of Peace, be our help.

For the participants

– Most Reverend Laurent B. DABIRE

President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burkina-Niger

– Most Reverend Jonas DEMBELE

President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Mali

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