AFRICA/NIGER - The testimony of a Christian kidnapped by jihadists

Thursday, 28 January 2021 jihadists   persecutions   missionaries  

Niamey (Agenzia Fides) – Italian missionary Father Mauro Armanino from the Society for Africa Missions lives and works in Niger. He reports on the torture suffered by a Christian farmer, originally from the same area where on 17 September 2018 his brother Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli was kidnapped.
"They told him to choose the weapon with which to kill him. His machete or their Kalashnikov. He replied that he never wanted to be killed with his beloved work tool and that he preferred their weapon. So they pointed it at him and he made a sign of the cross. The jihadist militant lowered his weapon and asked him if he was a Christian. When he said yes, he was told that, in order to make the final decision, they would have to wait for their leader. When he came a few days later, he asked if he had used his cell phone. If he had called the military or the police it would have cost him his life. He replied that he was a poor farmer and had no contact with the military, but called a friend. After checking his cell phone, they spared him and took him, after hours of traveling in the forest, to a group of prisoners.
There were many hostages there, including Muslims and Christians. "Unlike the others, the latter were tied up, beaten and threatened. The Muslims, on the other hand, could move around freely and even pray according to the established hours. After his release, walked back half a day to his village near the Burkina Faso border. He was held hostage for over a month and wanted to take branches home with him to repair his barn. Armed groups in the region have meanwhile banned farmers from cutting trees. It is not about ecological reasons, but about the fact that the fighters of the armed groups can only find shelter in a dense forest. Finally he returned to his village, where the local Christians in the community, accompanied by Father Carlos (SMA), have to change the prayer hours every Sunday for security reasons", the missionary concluded on the situation on site. The diocesan priest in charge of the parish dedicated to Charles de Foucauld does not live there and can only occasionally celebrate with his community. A few days ago, for the second time in a few days, the headquarters of the parish of Bomoanga, the same area where Father Maccalli was kidnapped, was 'visited' by young armed men. Apparently they were looking for food and other goods they needed for the group. All of this happens about a hundred kilometers from the capital Niamey, where people from western countries cannot travel without personal protection. In this context, the second round of the presidential elections should take place in less than a month". (M.A.) (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 28/1/2021)