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2,000 Christians flee village following IS attack in Burkina Faso
Christian villagers in Burkina Faso have come under threat by IS extremists for refusing to convert to Islam.
According to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), 2,000 villagers from Hitté and Rounga in Burkina Faso's Loroum Province, fled their homes following violent attacks by Islamist extremists earlier this month.
Speaking about the attack on Hitté, ACN's source said: "At the beginning of September, 16 men arrived in the village, intercepting the villagers who were returning from the fields.
"Some of the men forced the people to enter the church where they threatened the Christians and ordered them to leave their homes in the next three days, while others set fire to whatever they found in their path. Now Hitté is empty of any Christians and any catechumens."
7,000 people reportedly sought shelter in the provinces' capital, Titao.
The nearby city of Toulfé was the first town in the region to be targeted when jihadists murdered five people in May, before moving on to the town of Babo.
The Catholic Church is organising social and pastoral support, including medical care for the sick and the elderly - as well as counselling for those suffering trauma.
"The situation is proving very difficult to cope with, but it has prompted a spirit of solidarity among the rest of the population in Titao, including the local Muslims, who do not share the radical extremism of the terrorists and who are helping the local church to provide food and water to alleviate the basic needs of the refugees," said ACN's source.
The source went on to criticise government authorities for their lack of response to reports of attacks on the villages - adding that police had been unwilling to help recover the bodies of the Christians who had been killed, citing security concerns.
Violence against Christians has risen dramatically in Burkina Faso this year. In the last 12 months, the increasing violence across Mali and Niger, as well as Burkina Faso, has led to a five-fold rise in the displacement of the local population.
ACN are encouraging the church to pray for peace to return to the region.
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