The news reports on this African country have been alarming. The political conflict has been really trying for the entire population of Muslims, Christians and Animists. All are hoping for a peaceful solution.
“Ever since the coup d’etat last Thursday, 17 September– we are all still at home: the schools, offices, and shops are all closed. Petrol and food are running out and whatever is available, costs double,” explains Aurora De Oliveira of the Focolare in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second city of Burkina Faso. The protest here is felt, but not as strongly as in the capital, Ouagadougou (population of 1.5 million), where the main events of last week came about and where more than 100 people were wounded and at least ten have died. “These are determined people who do not wish to be crushed. In the big cities of Burkina Faso everyone participated in demonstrations, but peaceful ones. Undoubtedly, all are afraid, since war could explode any time now.” Jacques Sawadogo of the focolare community in the capital wrote: “The activities in Ouaga – where the army came – have slowed down. The banks, shops and stations have closed. Only small self-supporting activities have continued, like those of the Movement’s members in Ouagadougou. We try to keep contact via e-mail or telephone. We are trying our best to be peacemakers in words and actions.”
We spoke on the phone also with Fr. Sylvestre Sanou, general vicar of the diocese of Bobo-Dioulasso. The situation is in constant evolution and we fear it may degenerate. “There’s a general strike throughout the country – Fr. Sylvestre continued – In reality it was not really a coup d’etat. It was a raid conducted by a small group of the Presidential Guards headed by General Diendéré, a close ally of former president, Blaise Compaoré, who rose to power in 1987 with a small coup d’etat and was forced to escape after 27 years, and only in October 2014, after days of protests. Since then he has taken refuge in the Ivory Coast. “It seems that Generale Diendéré has tried to negotiate for his immunity, after having been President Compaoré’s right-hand man.”
We are, therefore, not dealing with a religious conflict between Muslims (50%), Christians (30%) or Traditional Religions (20%) but with a political situation. “The army seems to side with the population and the governors of the various regions are also against “coups,” and even Diendéré’s house was burnt down. Violence generates violence,” Fr. Sylvestre continued. “On 22 September we were all holding our breaths for the ultimatum of the army which entered the capital from four cities. The political future of the country is uncertain, despite the mediation of the Presidents of Benin and Senegal, on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (CEDEAO) and the return of the transitory President of Burkina Faso, Michel Kafando and also the Prime Minister, Isaac Zida (arrested and then released).”
“I had just returned from a stay in the Mariapolis “Victoria,” the town of the Focolare Movement in the Ivory Coast, and found myself in this situation,” concluded Fr. Sanou. ”They blocked the undergoing process of dialogue between the political parties which had tried to find common ground. But all blew up. Let us pray that a solution emerges without bloodshed and also quickly. In the meantime, we have started with the priests, religious and catechists of the diocese and also with our bishop, the pastoral visits programmed before these events. We feel the importance of going ahead and praying for our people and our country.”
“How are we all taking this? At the start we were angry and disappointed– Aurora De Oliveira confided – since after the 2014 events the political situation was coming along well. Just a step away from elections, programmed for 11 October (and now moved to 22 November), and here comes an armed group to spoil it all. This was my first reaction, and we felt the need to protest. The next step was to see in this suffering the countenance of Jesus Forsaken, and thus try to strengthen unity among us all in order to transmit peace and forgiveness. We tried to contact all those who share our spirituality of unity, because love must overcome all.”
While the meeting in Rome of delegates of the Movement from all over the world has started, and makes the hopes and sufferings of people all over the world particularly felt, the President of the Focolare, Maria Voce wrote to the community of Burkina Faso: “We shall continue to pray and live in greater unity with all of you, certain that Mary will protect us all.”