On Sunday 29th October 2011, in downtown Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, the Capital of Burkina Faso, there were more than a thousand believers, Christians and Muslims together, for the first meeting in the “Spirit of Assisi”: they met to remember the 25th anniversary of the Prayer for Peace organised by Pope John Paul II, in response to the invitation of the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Archdiocese to celebrate a moment of prayer, sharing the same spirit with Pope Benedict XVI who was visiting the home town of St Francis in the same days.
Before the common invocation for peace, each religion prayed in a different place. Christians, coming from all over the town, met in the Cathedral and then reached Place de la Nation in procession. Muslims did the same, after their prayer. The religious leaders entered the square in one procession and they went on the tribune to pronounce their message of reconciliation and peace for the future, while the believers were singing.
It was an appeal addressed to the whole world, but also to this Western African Country, that has been suffering in the last months from harsh social conflicts that have worsened the conditions of great poverty the majority of the population live in, due to factors such as its geographical position (the Sahel region) and the important phenomenon of emigration to nearby countries, like Ivory Coast, only to mention two.
Addressing his greeting to the participants, Henry Ouedraogo, from the Community of Sant’Egidio, acted as spokesperson for the great need of peace of the poor people friends of the Community, from the street children to the prisoners: “The globalisation of economy was not followed by justice and solidarity”. But “believers can build day after day a new civilization, the civilization of living together”.
The Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Mgr. Philippe Ouedraogo, spoke about the steps along the way of the “Spirit of Assisi” in the last years; he stressed everybody’s responsibility to build peace. “We are all together responsible for the peaceful future of the world. And we cannot rest until peace is restored around us, in Burkina and in the rest of the world. Peace is not a utopia: it is a dream and a hope”.
The Mogho Naaba Baongho, traditional head of the Mossi (inhabitants of this region), spoke about this “historic day”, inviting the people from Burkina to discover again their “tradition of peace, hospitality, and stability”.
The Imam of the Great Mosque of Ouagadougou, Sana Aboubacar, stressed the possibility for the Country to work for reconciliation: “In Burkina Faso we have an historical opportunity: the unification of the ethnic and linguistic plurality with the religious plurality. We have always lived in harmony with each other, and not against each other”.
The ceremony continued with the signing of the common appeal for peace, given by the children to the local civil authorities, and then with the lighting of a candelabra collecting the lights of every religion, hope in a world where differences contribute to unify and not to divide. At the end there was a great embrace as a sign of peace among the religious leaders and the numerous believers in the square.