AFRICA/NIGER - Sand identity and Ramadan in Niamey

Monday, 24 April 2023 migrants   islam  

Niamey (Agenzia Fides) - "There is no traffic in the city because the celebration of the conclusion of the holy month of Islam, Ramadan, the name of the ninth month of the Muslim calendar which means ‘burning heat’ is being celebrated", writes to Fides Father Mauro Armanino, A missionary of the Society of African Missions (SMA) from Niamey, the capital of Niger.
"Nothing more true given that in these days the temperatures have been around 42 and 43 degrees centigrade in the shade when there is and that, in the capital, 44 degrees are expected for the weekend. Aid el Fitr it means that fasting is over and that, after prayer and the profession of faith, the feast begins which in some parts lasts three days. This is followed by almsgiving to the poor, cordial greetings to brothers in the faith, gifts and festive clothing.
During the month of Ramadan, after evening prayers, food was distributed to the poor at the mosques. Many homeless, internally displaced and needy migrants have profited from this particular form of ritual solidarity. They are the best representatives, perhaps without knowing it or wanting it, of these mentioned sand identities. Abandoned their country of origin because, often, abandoned by them, they remake other and multiple migrant identities. They are then defined irregular and in the past they were simply clandestine because they were unwilling to entrust our common sand identity to 'printed documents'".
They are in fact - writes Father Armanino - thousands migrants ‘covered up’ in Niger at the border with Algeria. But also elsewhere they are now installed in the offices of the International Organization for Migration and in the numerous bus stations. "The latter offer the accommodation for a few days and the minimum services of water and sanitation, on the condition of being as invisible as possible. And this is how, gradually, our identity is modeled on situations, interlocutors and the unpredictable seasons of life. Sand, like identity, is nothing but dust.
From here the Europe dreamed of by many migrants appears even closer and further away together, just like a mirage which, as it approaches, recedes further and further away. A giant with feet of clay how hard it is to stand up. Incapable of offering any semblance of identity other than the aged face of walls, controls and coercive measures to reduce everything to numbers and statistics. What happens on this side of the world with migrants is none other than ‘side effects’ of European policies for the management of migratory movements. Continuing to pay Tunisian, Libyan or Moroccan coastguards only makes the sea even more deadly. Borders, detention camps and reasons for migrating are externalized elsewhere". (M.A.) (Agenzia Fides, 24/4/2023)