Senior UN officials, including Secretary-General António Guterres have voiced their outrage at a deadly attack on a Catholic church in the north of Burkina Faso on Sunday, during which six people were reportedly killed by gunmen.
According to media reports, the attack took place in the town of Dablo, situated in a region that has seen a spike in violence in recent months. The church was burned to the ground, along with other buildings including a health centre.
In a statement, Mr Guterres urged "all citizens of Burkina Faso to stand firmly with one another across communities and not to succumb to efforts to sow discord and breed further violence." He also recalled the sanctity of all places of worship and expressed his hopes the perpetrators can be swiftly brought to justice, and urged "all citizens of Burkina Faso to stand firmly with one another across communities and not to succumb to efforts to sow discord and breed further violence."
Maria Espinosa, President of the General Assembly, expressed similar sentiments, tweeting that the killers must be held accountable: "we cannot tolerate hatred. The fundamental right of religious freedom must be respected everywhere."
Metsi Makhetha, the UN Resident Coordinator in Burkina Faso, also tweeted her response to the shootings in Dablo, condemning the "heinous attacks" and offering her condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.
The shootings came just days after warnings from top UN humanitarian officials, including Ms. Makhetha, of an "unprecedented" rise in "sophisticated armed attacks in the Sahel", which are putting the future of a "whole generation" at stake.
Violence is spreading in Mali and Niger, as well as Burkina Faso, and risks spilling over into other West African countries. This has led to a five-fold rise in the displacement of the local population in the last 12 months, who have seen more than 330,000 people leave their homes, in addition to 100,000 refugees.
According to Ms. Makhetha, "ISIS-inspired" armed groups, threaten to destabilize longstanding traditional methods of community-based conflict resolution. "The UN, partner humanitarian organizations and Governments have stepped up operations. But we must do more."