Religious Leaders Stand for Social Cohesion in the Est Region

Speeches Shim

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Promoting Social Cohesion During Ramadan
USAID/OTI/BFRP

Fada N’Gourma and Gayéri are two communes located in Est region, Burkina Faso that have been targets of multiple attacks by extremist organizations. Following each attack, particularly those on churches, members of predominantly Muslim groups—like the Peulh—are accused of cooperating with terrorist groups. As a result, Peulh community members are stigmatized by other community members. Each attack renews fears that further cleavages will be sewn among different ethnic and religious groups within these communities.

Previously, religious leaders did not have a forum to gather together and identify solutions to reducing suspicions and dispelling harmful stereotypes in their respective communities. USAID/OTI's Burkina Faso Regional Program (BFRP) worked with a platform of civil society organizations to utilize celebrations during Ramadan to bring various religious leaders together for an Iftar, the time when traditional meals are eaten and fasts are broken. BFRP provided leaders with an opportunity and venue to break bread together and openly discuss the importance of peace, solidarity, and social cohesion. Leaders representing both Christian and Islamic groups were represented, resulting in dialogue that encouraged actions aimed at denouncing violent extremism in the region. In addition to sharing a meal together, leaders visited vulnerable populations to deliver sanitary supplies such as hand sanitizer and face coverings to show their solidarity and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the iftars, the religious leaders recorded radio messages requesting their fellow citizens not to stigmatize community members who are different from them, but instead,  see everyone in their community as brothers and sisters who are members of the same family and nation. A representative of the Muslim community stated in his radio message:
 

"We would like to thank our Christian counterparts who stood with us during these two days to show the people of Gulmu that faith helps us to live together and coexist in a peaceful way [...] faith must never lead to disarray, dissatisfaction, or destabilization among communities."

 

This activity served as a springboard for community members to come together to overcome shared difficulties. As a civil society representative emphasized,

"Bringing all of the religious leaders together is a decisive step toward social unity and stability."

 

Last updated: July 30, 2020

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