CNA Staff, Jan 20, 2021 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- A Catholic bishop in Burkina Faso is asking for prayers after the disappearance of another priest, whose vehicle was found abandoned earlier this week.

Father Rodrigue Sanon, a priest of Notre Dame de Soubaganyedougou, has not been seen since Tuesday.

According to ACI Africa, Bishop Lucas Kalfa Sanou of Banfora said the priest was supposed to meet him in Banfora, but never arrived.

“I invite all the faithful to a fervent prayer so that Father Rodrigue can be found safe and sound as soon as possible,” the bishop said.

The diocese has reached out to the authorities, “who are doing everything possible to search for him,” said Sanou.

According to AFP, the authorities issued an alert in the afternoon, and search parties were dispatched as soon as the priest was reported missing. As of Wednesday morning, “no trace of him” had been discovered.

Over the last five years, Burkina Faso has been a hub for religious violence and Islamist militias, especially in the northeastern territories. The militants include the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and Ansarul Islam.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S. State Department, 61% of Burkina Faso residents identify as Muslim and 23% identify as Christian.

The extremist attacks, which target both Christians and Muslims, have left over 1 million people displaced and almost 1,100 dead since 2015.

The bishops in Burkina Faso issued a statement in June, calling the situation “more worrying than ever.” They raised concerns about the increase in religious violence and called for more support from the authorities.

“The role of the Defense and Security Forces remains paramount,” said the bishops, adding that security forces in the country “must produce and guarantee a secure environment conducive to the conduct of the electoral process with the full participation of all citizens.”

In the June statement, the bishops statement said they are worried that the low levels of security are preventing priests from reaching their parishioners and asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for their efforts.

“For the Pastors in this part of Burkina Faso as elsewhere in the regions … it is a great suffering to no longer be able to reach the faithful in some places, or to see them fleeing from terrorist attacks without any guarantee of security,” they said.

“May Mary, Queen of Peace, accompany us on the path to true peace, a gift of God and the fruit of human efforts.”

 

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