AFRICA/NIGER - "We are under embargo", trapped by our limitations and our poverty, trapped by our security and freedom

Thursday, 19 October 2023


Dosso (Agenzia Fides) – "We are under embargo, in my opinion constantly; trapped by our limitations and our poverty, trapped by our security and freedom..." writes Father Rafael Casamayor, missionary in the small community of Dosso, at the end of the diocesan assembly that brought together 130 priests, nuns and delegates in Niamey from all the parishes of the Society of African Missions in Niger, together with the archbishop of the diocese, Laurent Lompo.
“It was a joy to see each other again, especially since we cannot move for safety reasons. These are difficult times - says the missionary - Niger usually appears every year as the poorest country in the world, but after the coup d'état of July 26 (see Fides, 21/7/2023) the poverty of the past has visibly increased: the journey from Dosso to Niamey, 150 km that we traveled last April on a road full of buses and trucks, last week we did it practically alone: there is no transportation, there is no commerce. The treasurer of the diocese has spoken to me about the number of companies that have closed, the lack of basic products in stores, the unpaid salaries of public employees... 'We need to tighten our belts'" was the message that Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine sent us at the opening of the Assembly. "We already knew it. We are experiencing the abrupt interruption of projects financed by international organizations and our neighboring countries have closed their borders, preventing us from receiving basic products. Prices have doubled: rice, corn, millet, are unattainable. For us, this is something common; it is what we learn to face from the moment we are born,” says Father Rafael. After the opening of the assembly in Niamey, the group watched a video about the experience of Brother Pier Luigi Maccalli, who was kidnapped for more than two years in the middle of the desert, chained and mocked by his captors. They tried to force him to convert to Islam. “We have been able to confirm that his deep sense of loneliness and abandonment, even by God, helped him discover the infinite spaces of his heart and his spirit, as well as helping to eliminate all feelings of bitterness and resentment and making him aware that those two years of imprisonment were the most fruitful period of his missionary life", says Father Rafael. Once back in the community of Dosso, Father Casamayor shared with the faithful the developments and decisions of the diocesan Assembly. “These are vital meetings because they create an atmosphere, communicate fraternity, desire to work, to live, and help us become aware of the reality of our country, Niger, and of our Church, small, minority, but discrete. Two aspects have marked, in my opinion, these days of fraternity: the situation of isolation and poverty that the country is experiencing, especially after the coup d'état, and the insecurity, even after sharing the testimony of the kidnapping of our brother Pier Luigi and analyzing widely the consequences in our Church and community.” “In Dosso, after thinking about it many times, we have decided to work for the development of our base communities, structure and strengthen the youth group and foster the missionary spirit in the parish.” Niger is a very large country in terms of area, cultures and ethnicities: Tuaregs, Songhay, Hausa, Gurmantches... in ways and styles of life... The Niger River has been the channel through which over the centuries people, cultures, beliefs and experiences of extraordinary richness and diversity have passed through. “We feel very small in front of all this magnificence,” concludes the priest. (AP/RC) (Agenzia Fides, 19/10/2023)