A group of bishops, priests, and delegates from bishops' conferences in Burkina, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast and Ghana met Nov. 12-13 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to discuss growing instability the region.
The meeting was organized by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which has been offering food, water, and shelter to those affected by the burgeoning humanitarian crisis, as well as long-term development projects aimed at agriculture, health care and education.
The Sahel region of West Africa is currently facing extreme poverty, food scarcity, and unemployment. Violence has risen in recent years, leaving millions of people displaced.
Such challenges – and how to address them – were discussed by participants at the CRS meeting. At the conclusion of the gathering, the participants issued a statement pledging to work for peace and stability in the area.
The current crisis in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger is complex, they said in the statement, and it cannot be properly understood without taking into account a full array of historical, cultural, religious, economic, political, and geographic factors.
They pointed to poverty, corruption and poor government, radicalization and religious intolerance, weapon and drug trafficking, and fighting over natural resources as among the causes contributing to the current violence.
Today, they said, this crisis is seen in "daily violations of fundamental rights on the human person: violation of the right to life characterized by mass killings, violation of the right to religious freedom resulting in attacks of places of worship, targeted attacks on religious leaders or members of particular religious denominations, violation of the right to education for all resulting in the closure of schools, violation of the right to property characterized by forced appropriations, violation of the right to live in a secure and peaceful environment."