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“I came and I saw!”

on Tuesday, 01 March 2016. Posted in Testimonies

Testimony of Bishop Joachim Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso

Here are excerpts from the speech given by Most Rev. Joachim Hermenegilde Ouedraogo, Bishop of Koudougou in Burkina Faso, at the end of our August, 2015 study session in Rougemont on economic democracy. (Please take note that a session in English only will take place in Rougemont August 21-28, 2016. See back cover for more information.)

Bishop Joachim OuédraogoMy name is Joachim Hermenegilde Ouedraogo. I am now the Bishop of the diocese of Koudougou in west central Burkina-Faso. In 2004, I was appointed Bishop of the diocese of Dori, at the far north of Burkina-Faso. The population there is mainly Muslim, 95 percent Muslim and one percent Christian; a diocese the size of Belgium. From there, I was transfered to the diocese of Koudougou on November 4, 2011.  

I first met your MICHAEL movement in 2011, through one of your directors, Marcel Lefebvre. I was then Bishop of Dori and Apostolic Administrator for the Koudougou diocese. To make my story short, let us say there are 370 kilometers between the two dioceses. Each time, I had to travel across two dioceses before reaching Koudougou. I would spend two weeks in Koudougou, three days in Ouagadougou (the capital city), two weeks in Dori, and back again. This almost killed me in the end.  

Marcel insisted so much and spoke so highly of MICHAEL and of the Pilgrims of Saint Michael, that I wrote on October 15, 2011, to answer the invitation to take part to the March 2012 meeting and on October 17, I received the information needed for my taking part.

But meanwhile, on November 4, 2011, I was made Bishop of Koudougou. My new responsibilities left me with less time to accept ulterior invitations. But Marcel’s tenacity won over other considerations. He went so far as to use one of my relations, Father Patrice Savadogo of Ivory Coast, also present now, to convince me to come.

I came and I saw!

  • I saw the Pilgrims of Saint Michael, a charismatic community whose members have faith in what they do.
  •  I saw the Pilgrims of Saint Michael, a community that testifies to the Good News.
  • I saw the Pilgrims of Saint Michael, a community concerned with mankind’s future.
  • I saw the Pilgrims of Saint Michael, a community that loves God and which goes to the outposts of society to make Jesus Christ known, to make Jesus Christ loved, to foster the imitation of Jesus Christ.
  • I saw the Pilgrims of Saint Michael, a community that has and that will cause an earthquake in today’s economic system.   
  • I have seen lay people, men and women, priests and bishops who believe that good will prevail over evil, that love will prevail over hatred, justice over injustice, generosity over selfishness, and economic democracy over the dictatorship of today’s worldwide financial dictatorship. And it is you I am speaking of!
  • I have also seen beautiful empty churches, witnesses of the Church’s glorious past upon this Canadian land.

These seven–what I was about to call–“visions” have raised in me two questions: I have discovered to some extent the present financial system and I have discovered that I am both exploited and exploiter. After listening to Mr. de Siebenthal’s lesson, I could not sleep the following night. The teachings of Mr. Pilote and of all the other speakers have taught us how we are being exploited. Without being a mathematician, when I cast an empirical look at my past and present life, I can see that I am being exploited, that we are being exploited. Our people are being exploited.

The diocese of Ouahigouya, where I come from, overflows with gold. There are two large mines in the diocese, and one of these mines was sacked by the Muslims’ revolt against this exploitation. The diocese of Dori, in the far north, has many gold mines. The young people in the city of Youga once marched against the mining authorities.

In my village, part of this diocese, is found one of the largest mines of Burkina-Faso. The people of the village like to say: “Here in Sabce, we walk on gold.” True enough, they walk on gold and they lack everything! The peasants of Sabce cannot afford to buy an egg. And small cubicles were built for families that can hardly hold two people, And all the silver, all of the gold, go elsewhere. I don’t know where.

I feel that we are being exploited. Gold production in Burkina-Faso was discussed at the Bishops Conference on several occasions. Our country is overflowing with gold! There is gold everywhere. Gold everywhere. And in my diocese of Koudougou, not only is there gold but we also have zinc. And the people are just as poor as ever before.

Bishop Ouédraogo and our directors
Bishop Ouedraogo surrounded by our directress, Therese Tardif and our director, Marcel Lefebvre

School is taught under a hut, as we say. Children are schooled under the trees. Children do not have desks, so it is in the Sahel region. In many schools, they sit on the ground. And as we say back home, everyone has his own hole. Children put an elbow to the ground and lie down on the ground to write. After a while of putting an elbow on the ground, everyone has burrowed a hole, and if you change holes, your elbow won’t fit. And when the time comes to pass their certificate, they are taken to town. They don’t know then how to sit at a table. They ask to be allowed to sit on the ground to write. And this goes on in a Burkina-Faso that is overflowing with gold!

So, we are exploited. I am exploited, and I find this revolting. You have made me aware of this fact.

I say that I am, also, an exploiter. And this is the very thing that kept me awake after listening to Mr. de Siebenthal. I am an exploiter when I am silent before an injustice. We do not have the right to remain silent. I am an exploiter because of my attitude towards money and earthly goods. And I ask myself the following two questions:

  • As a Bishop, how do I see the poor?
  • How are the employees in my missions treated?

At times, their salaries are not even declared to the proper authorities. This is unjust. Thus I am an exploiter. I believe that I, myself, must change so as to change the world. Therefore pray for me that I may change.   

The second matter that comes to my mind is the pastoral benefit I derive from this week of formation: The way the Pilgrims of Saint Michael carry out their teaching can be applied to the pastoral field in spreading the Good News. The Pope invites us to go out of our way. You give us the example of how to go far and wide. In the diocese, we have many Catholic Action movements, we have the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, from the oldest to the youngest, etc., but often, we remain between ourselves, we do not go to the outskirts.

At present, all of our villages are invaded by Protestants. I once paid a pastoral visit to a Protestant family that lives close to the bishopry. There was a university scholar in the family. And when I began presenting myself, he said: «I know your village!» and went on to say that on weekends and holidays, the Protestants universitarians divide the villages of Burkina Faso between themselves and go out to evangelize them, to carry out pastoral visits. And I ask you, what do you do? We remain amongst ourselves, we do not reach out to the outskirts. Your pastoral method inspires me a great deal and upon my return I wish to share this with my collaborators so as to truly spread the Good News.

And for the benefits I received, for these questions and for the calling into question that this visit has brought upon me, I extend a simple thank you!

There is a saying in my country: One cannot pick flour up using only one finger. You need two fingers to scoop up flour. This is a call to unity in action so that, bit by bit, we may raise up this world, and that we may bring a lot more justice to our society.       

This is what I wanted to share with you. May God bless you!

Bishop Joachim Ouédraogo

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