On 16 June last, Agenzia Fides, the Information service of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, reported on the deaths in Niger of 34 migrants in a desert area close to the Algerian border. Niger’s Interior Ministry announced the recent discovery of the bodies, among them 20 children whom it is suspected died from thirst after having been abandoned by people smugglers. News Report here.
Niger is fifteen times the size of Ireland of which 80% is in the Sahara Desert. Christians make up just 0.4% of the population while Islam accounts for 83%.
SMA missionaries first went to Niger in 1919. Fr Francois Faroud was the first SMA priest to live permanently in Niger, establishing the first Catholic Mission in the capital, Niamey in 1931. In 1948, responding to growing demands in other SMA missions in west Africa the Society handed over the Niger area to the Redemptorist Congregation. However, at the request of the first Bishop of Niamey, Msgr Hyppolite Berlier CSSr, the French SMAs returned to Niger in 1976 establishing two communities. One group worked in the rural area, among the farming Gourmanche people, first at Makalondi and, since 2000, at Bomoanga. The second group established themselves in an urban setting, at Maradi, and later in Niamey itself.
The first Archbishop of Niamey was Michel Cartatéguy SMA who handed over to the present Archbishop, Most Rev Djalwana Laurent Lompo in October 2014.
To learn more about the SMAs mission to Niger, please click here.