AFRICA/NIGER - The difficult testimony of missionaries in the Sahel

Wednesday, 5 October 2022


Dosso (Agenzia Fides) - For just over ten years the population of the Sahel has been living in an extremely delicate situation due to the presence of radical movements close to Al Qaeda that have created great insecurity and fear throughout the area. There are currently several hundred thousand displaced people in Niger who have had to leave their homes, fields and villages to take refuge in the slums of various cities. Fear and distrust have appeared in society and there is great uncertainty among the small Christian communities in this Muslim country.
The missionaries cannot enter the city for security reasons, visit the scattered Christian communities, which began their journey a few years ago and of which nothing is known, if they continue to meet, if they pray, if they are still alive.
"We Western missionaries cannot leave the countries in which we live without being accompanied by an escort of armed police in their cars, without any discretion," says Father Rafael Casamayor, a priest of the African Mission Society, from Dosso.
"Last year - says the missionary - Sannicame to visit me, a catechist and nurse from a small town on the border with Nigeria, well known and loved by the people of Farwel, about a hundred kilometers from Dosso. Every Sunday he gathers his little community. He told me at length about his religious experience and his conversion for which he had to go through all kinds of humiliations, contempt from neighbors and relatives until he reached a state of poverty and total abandonment.
Thanks to the frequent visits of the priest then present in Dosso, who explained to him the fundamentals of our faith until baptism, his life changed little by little, as did the attitude of his neighbors towards him. Sanni has regained his job and a normal life, and even a little more respect and consideration from his family. Today he seems to be a very loved and appreciated person in the town, his condition as a nurse and his spirit of service help him to do so".
"One day the catechist told me: 'Father, you can't come to our towns today. The situation has become very complicated. Every day we see young people on huge motorcycles coming and going from Nigeria, jihadists, loads of drugs and who knows what else. What we can do is get in touch with the towns and people we have met, talk to them, see the situation they are in and make an appointment with those who might join us. For now, if the priest cannot come to our countries, we can come to be with him, share our faith and see together what we can do for the future". (AP/RC) (Agenzia Fides, 5/10/2022)