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Catholic priest killed in Burkina Faso terror attack

The Diocese of Dédougou in western Burkina Faso has confirmed the murder of Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo

Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo was murdered in the northwest of Burkina Faso on Jan. 2

Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo was murdered in the northwest of Burkina Faso on Jan. 2. (Photo: La Croix)


Published: January 10, 2023 04:54 AM GMT

Updated: January 10, 2023 04:59 AM GMT

Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo, 67, a Malian-born Catholic priest, was laid to rest on Jan. 5 at a Catholic cemetery in Tionkuy, 150 miles west of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

The priest was killed on Jan. 2 by unidentified armed men in what his bishop, Bishop Prosper Bonaventure Ky, who heads the Diocese of Dédougou, called "cold-blood murder."

A funeral Mass for Father Zerbo was celebrated on Jan. 5 in the Cathedral of St. Anne in Dédougou.

The priest was on his way to Tona to accomplish a mission for his bishop when he was intercepted by unidentified armed men in the village of Soro in Gassan township found in the northwestern region of Boucle du Mouhon – one of Burkina Faso's 13 administrative regions and a flashpoint of jihadist extremism.

After killing the priest, the killers escaped with his car, leaving his lifeless body by the roadside.

Bishop Ky expressed "profound sorrow" at the murder of the priest and hoped he would find peace in the Lord.

"Through the infinite mercy of God, may his servant Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo rest in peace," he said.

Father Zerbo was born in Kolongo, Mali, in 1956. He was ordained a priest on July 19, 1986, in Dédougou. Before his death, he was running a center for young people in Gouyèlè, focusing on helping addicts recover and return to normal life.

According to the Open Doors watchdog organization, around a quarter of the people in Burkina Faso are Christians – just over 5 million out of a population of 21.5 million.

The recent killing added to a long list of persecution of Christians and other civilians and underscored the continued spread of terrorism in Burkina Faso and across the Sahel region.

In April 2019, gunmen swooped into a church in the Diocese of Dori, in northeastern Burkina Faso, during Mass and killed four worshippers. In March of the same year, Father Joël Yougbaré of Djibo, also of the Diocese of Dori, was kidnapped by gunmen. He has not been seen since.

On May 12, 2019, a priest and five other Christians were killed when gunmen attacked worshippers attending Mass at a church in Dablo in northern Burkina Faso. Senior U.N. officials, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, voiced their outrage at the time.

On Jan. 21, 2022, Father Rodrigue Sanon was found dead in a forest in the southwest of the country, a region of jihadist rule.

For years Christians and Muslims lived in relative harmony in Burkina Faso, but this changed in 2015 when jihadists’ attacks began.

According to Open Doors, Christian believers who have converted from Islam face the most persecution. Family and community members often reject them and try to force them to renounce their Christian faith. Many are afraid to express their faith in public because of such threats.

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