The Catholic Church in Burkina Faso urged calm following the ousting of President Blaise Compaore and called on the country’s new military rulers to honour pledges of democracy.
“All the signs are positive, the shops, office and schools are open, and life seems to be returning to normal,” said Msgr Joseph Kinda, spokesman for Burkina Faso’s bishops’ conference.
“The new president says he’ll make it his program to consult and cooperate with all social forces. Having deplored the recent acts of vandalism, robbery and looting, we’re now very optimistic,” he said.
Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, announced a week of prayers for “reconciliation, justice and peace” in the landlocked West African state after the deputy head of the presidential guard, Lt Col Isaac Yacouba Zida, declared himself interim head of state on November 1.
Msgr Kinda told Catholic News Service on November 3 that he had not heard of injuries to Catholics or damage to parish buildings during recent rioting in capital city Ouagadougou.
He added that Zida had held “consultative talks” on November 3 with Catholic, Muslim and other religious leaders, who had offered help in forming an interim administration. “The outgoing president caused these disturbances by taking a position against society and failing to speak in the same language,” the spokesman said.
“The bishops have called repeatedly for national agreement. They now count on the new authorities to find someone in civil society who can govern and guide our country through the coming transition.”
Compaore fled on October 31 to Ivory Coast after 27 years in power following mass protests against plans to amend the constitution to allow him continue in office for another term beginning in 2015.
Forces loyal to Zida said they would appoint a civilian-led administration as soon as possible to supervise fresh elections.
However, news agencies reported that shots had been fired on November 2 during demonstrations against the takeover. The United Nations and African Union warned on November 3 that they would consider sanctions if the military rulers failed to surrender power within two weeks.
In his prayer appeal, Cardinal Ouedraogo said Burkina Faso was experiencing “delicate moments in its history,” and depended on “institutions to guarantee its wellbeing, freedom and peace.”
Msgr Isidore Ouedraogo, director of the Church’s Caritas aid organisation, said the bishops had previously warned of “social division and the rise of violence,” and had welcomed Compaore’s departure “with joy.”
“The bishops have tried to articulate the aspirations of the people for a better life,” Msgr Ouedraogo told Vatican Radio’s French-language service on October 31.
“Today more than ever, Christians should show themselves engaged with others at the service of society.”
With three archdioceses and 12 dioceses, the Catholic Church makes up close to a fifth of Burkina Faso’s population of 16.5 million, according to a 2006 census, with Muslims making up half and followers of indigenous beliefs a further fifth.
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