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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Mali Church leader voices alarm over insurgent attacks on parishes

Catholic leaders in Mali warned that parishes face a growing assault by Islamic militants despite attempts to enforce a peace deal in the north African country.

“Our churches and chapels are now being targeted by extremists, who’ve told Christians not to gather to pray,” said Mgr Edmond Dembele, secretary-general of the Malian bishops’ conference.

“The authorities are trying to reimpose control, and we may learn more about what kind of strategy is being followed,” he told Catholic News Service on 5th October. “But we’re also alarmed the attacks are being mounted by isolated Islamist groups, acting in their own name.”

Tensions were running high in September and early October in Mali’s central Mopti region after several Catholic churches were ransacked and torched, forcing parishioners to flee.

Mgr Dembele said it was unclear which groups were involved and what their motives were.

“We have no security program of our own and we rely on the authorities to provide protection and find solutions,” Mgr Dembele said.

Picture: A member of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali patrols in mid-December in Kidal. Catholic leaders in Mali warned that parishes face a growing assault by Islamic militants despite attempts to enforce a peace deal in the north African country.(CNS photo/Sylvain Liechti handout via Reuters).