Written by: Amélie de la Hogue
Article source: www.churchinneed.org

Even As Burkina Faso is increasingly plagued by terrorist violence, the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (SIC), an indigenous congregation, are staying firmly put alongside their people. Aid to the Church in Need spoke with Sister Pauline Sawagado, the General Superior of the congregation, and Sister Marie-Bernadette Rouamba, her predecessor.

Terrorist attacks have been increasingly targeting Burkina Faso. Have you personally witnessed any incidents?
We are living in a climate of permanent insecurity. Especially, our sisters in the communities in the north of the country are witnessing clashes daily. In Bam, the terrorists were just two miles away from the community. We take in refugees every day, especially wives whose husbands have been murdered— because the terrorists mainly kill the men—but also children and elderly people. In the north, sisters are caring for between 30 and 60 refugees each day. And even in Ouagadougou, the capital city, we have taken in more than 600 displaced people. They need bread, water, a little soap, and especially a sympathetic hearing, a gesture of gentleness, a sign of being loved, even if only for a day, after what they have been through.

Are you afraid?Are the terrorists targeting a particular segment of the population? Everyone is in their sights—Catholics are killed, animists are killed, Muslims are killed, Protestants are killed! We welcome all refugees, whether Christians, Muslims, or animist.

Afraid? No, because we trust in God’s providence. We know that anything can happen to us any day and that we have to be prepared for every possible situation. We are concerned for everyone, we want to be able to attend to the needs of every individual. And as leaders of the community we carry all these cares and concerns. Here in Burkina Faso everyone is suffering from this climate of insecurity—not just our sisters in the north of the country, but also our sisters in Mali.

What do you say to the sisters during these difficult times?
We tell them to remain firm in their faith and love. We encourage them in their mission outreach wherever they happen to be. And we pray a great deal every day, for peace but also for the conversion of the terrorists. We are hopeful that the Lord will help us, for we are there for Him. We are living this martyrdom in faith.

Have you thought of closing some of your communities?
We don’t want to close any of our communities, because the people are already afraid and if they see the sisters leaving, they will really feel abandoned. We want to stay alongside the people, to help and console them. Some of our sisters in Mali were forced to leave for security reasons, but now they tell me they are willing to return there. They feel they are ready to suffer along with the people, side by side with them.

Are Christians continuing to hope, despite the threats?
Yes, we have noticed a real spiritual growth among the people. Faced with these difficulties, the Christians are not deserting the churches; instead, on the contrary, they are praying still more! In the Archdiocese of Ouagadougou we have organized a prayer chain in the 35 parishes, so that every week one parish will be praying especially for peace.

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Date published: 07/02/2020
Feature image: Sister Sawagado (l) and Sister Rouamba

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