A Catholic priest in Burkina Faso who went missing Tuesday has been found dead in a forest, the local bishop announced Thursday.
“It is with deep sorrow that I bring to everyone's attention that the lifeless body of Fr. Rodrigue Sanon was found on January 21, 2021 in the protected forest of Toumousseni, about 20 kilometres from Banfora,” Bishop Lucas Kalfa Sanou said in a statement, according to ACI Africa.
He called for prayers and said more information would be available at a later time.
“By the Mercy of God, may the soul of his servant Rodrigue Sanon rest in peace!” the bishop said.
Fr. Sanon, a priest of Notre Dame de Soubaganyedougou, disappeared Tuesday on his way to Banfora to meet with Bishop Sanou. The priest never arrived, and his car was found abandoned.
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 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.”