Interreligious dialogue needed to combat terrorism
This is why forging peaceful and cohesive relations with Muslims is fundamental, bishops from Burkina Faso and Niger tell Pope Francis
Catholic bishops from Burkina Faso and Niger have called for better dialogue between Muslim and Christian communities in an effort to combat terrorism.
The bishops were in Rome May 20-28 for their ad limina visit, which Catholic bishops must make every five years to report to the pope on their respective dioceses and meet with Vatican officials.
The 21 bishops from Burkina Faso and Niger were welcomed by Pope Francis.
At the top of the list of their pastoral concerns they shared with the pope were security and interreligious dialogue.
“The Catholic Church is surrounded by Muslim populations, and in Burkina Faso, Muslims make up 60 percent of the population,” said Archbishop Paul Yemboaro Ouédraogo of Bobo-Dioulasso, president of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger.
This is why forging peaceful and cohesive relations is fundamental, he said after his audience with Pope Francis.
The need for peaceful cohabitation
Bishop Laurent Birfuore Dabiré of Dori, whose diocese is in the north of Burkina Faso on the border with Mali, is in a dangerous and precarious region. On May 20, a catechist and his wife were kidnapped from a parish in his diocesan territory.
In his opinion, “peaceful cohabitation” between Muslims and Catholics prevails despite the atmosphere of insecurity, and everything must be done to support it.
“What unites people is family, culture, and traditions that are independent of religion,” he said on Radio Vatican.
“That said, since the terrorist attacks, there are still those who are trying to use the climate of insecurity to amplify divisions.”
At the end of March, media revealed the existence of a militia group called “Islamic Security” operating in Pouytenga, 140 kilometers east of Ouagadougou. The news raised widespread fear and alarm.
Three weeks earlier, on March 2, the attacks on the military headquarters and the French Embassy left seven dead. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the jihadist coalition, Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
Episcopal commission for Islamic-Christian dialogue
Recognizing the importance of dialogue between Muslims and Catholics, the “Islamic-Christian dialogue” commission and the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger held meetings April 10-12 in Ouagadougou.
For Father Arcadius Sawadogo, the commission’s general secretary, they have to find “ways to bring people together, since the other should be met as a brother and loved as one.”
Similarly, Imam Boureima Drabo, who was invited to participate in the gatherings, said: “It is our responsibility to live together and it is up to us to learn how to do so. It is an absolutely necessary step, without which it will be very difficult to find happiness on earth.”