About a quarter of the population of Burkina Faso is Christian, and just over 60% of the 20 million inhabitants are Muslim. The West African country has long been regarded as a model for peaceful coexistence between religions. While there were only isolated attacks in previous years, an explosion of violence broke out in 2019 with serious jihadist attacks on Christian communities. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled for their lives, schools have been closed and church life is now severely restricted.
The situation of the Church:
Several priests have already been murdered. Pastoral care has come to a complete standstill in some areas due to the violent attacks. Priests and nuns can no longer move freely to care for the faithful in the villages; some parishes have been closed for security reasons. The Christians are very much present and active in the fields of healthcare and education, thanks to the various congregations of Catholic religious sisters who are working to serve the whole of society. In particular, the sisters play an exceptional role in the accompaniment of women, who in African culture often have a heavy burden to bear. The Congregation of the Sisters of Notre-Dame du Lac Bam (SNDLB) was founded in 1967 by a Father from the Society of Missionaries of Africa, then stationed in the parish of Bam, belonging to the Diocese of Ouahigouya. The charism of the sisters is to announce the Good News of Salvation to the poorest. They are mainly located in rural areas where the population is most deprived of spiritual and social support. Through various pastoral and social activities, they contribute to defending the dignity and rights of women and freeing the young girls of cultural social constraints.
Facing the Covid 19 pandemic
It is in this context of insecurity that the people of Burkina Faso are facing the coronavirus crisis. Burkina Faso experienced its first cases of coronavirus on March 9, 2020 and since that date, the number of cases has kept increasing from one day to the next. Some have healed but there have also been many deaths.
Despite the insecurity and the pandemic, the Sisters of Notre Dame du Lac de Bam make visits to families to support them in coping with the virus and make them aware of hygiene practices, encourage them to wear masks and inviting them to respect confinement and avoid gatherings. This is a real struggle because many families are internally displaced who came from the surrounding villages in crammed conditions, with more than 20 or even 30 people living in the same room.
Most of these families survive on the generosity of others and of the government. Because of the pandemic and the generalized deterioration of the economic situation, families find themselves abandoned. While respecting social distancing precautions, the sisters continue the mission of Christ by bringing Holy Communion to certain elderly people.
At the beginning of March, two nursing sisters of the congregation were on training in a health center in Séguénéga. Today, they are confronted with the virus and sensitize patients to the wearing of masks, handwashing, distancing, etc. Sr Thérèse KABORE, superior general of the Sisters of Notre Dame du Lac de Bam in Ouahigouya says: « Some of our communities remain confined but are united to the Church and to the whole world by the intensity of their personal and community prayer ».
To help the Sisters of Notre Dame du Lac de Bam take care of the most vulnerable communities, ACN is committed to providing an existence help for each of the 105 nuns in the congregation. Each will receive 10,000 CFA / month. The total budget is estimated at € 19,300