AFRICA/NIGER - Unarmed resistance on the border of jihadism

Tuesday, 15 March 2022 persecutions   jihadists   faith  

Niamey (Agenzia Fides) - "A total of 40 animators and group leaders shared their concerns and hopes during our meeting that took place on the outskirts of Niamey in this month of March", writes to Fides Fr. Mauro Armanino for the Society of African Missions of the Archdiocese of Niamey.
"Following the women's meeting in the same area, it was now the turn of the animators (catechists for the most part) to share their experiences in times of 'siege' by armed jihadist groups. We are on the outskirts of the diocese of Niamey, on the border with Burkina Faso, and in the very area where Father Pierluigi Maccalli was kidnapped in 2018", explains Fr. Armanino. "Since then, the situation has gradually deteriorated, with armed groups besieging the area and controlling communications, economic activity and the religious identities of residents. Because of this, cellphone towers have been rendered unusable, mines and trade bans have destroyed the economy based on local weekly markets and the cultivation of fields and finally, communal prayers in churches have been banned in most of the villages". The farmers from the Gourmanché people who live on the border between Burkina Faso and Niger want to defend themselves against the occupation with two different weapons. The first is that of faith in the God they know is present, also and above all in this moment. This faith helps to overcome the daily fear of being kidnapped or executed or of dying of deprivation and it is expressed above all in prayer. Prayers are held in families' homes and courtyards, and this helps to resist in other ways than through weapons. Also because the second 'weapon' used by the peasants is the proverbial patience, which helps them to live in expectation.
For security reasons, the priests of the archdiocese live in the capital Niamey, more than a hundred kilometers from the region in question. It is therefore the lay people who have been trained in recent years, who assume their responsibilities, who keep the communities alive. This is a strong and unequivocal sign of the fragile maturity of the communities founded and supported by the missionaries during these years. A wonderful lesson in maturity and non-violence from the peasants who know from experience what it means to sow and wait for the harvest. A waiting that is called hope. (M.A./L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 15/3/2022)