Church properties attacked
FIDES reports that Catholic buildings in the Abidjan area of Cote d’Ivoire have been attacked and robberies of Church properties continue. The SMA is having to repair buildings and replace all looted items in its Formation House.
“In two and a half months, about 40 churches and religious men and women’s houses all over Abidjan have been attacked by armed bandits with the aim to steal” the complaint of Fr Augustin Obrou to Fides. He is the head of the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire. “It is true that after the civil war ended there is still widespread uncertainty, but the fact that so many Catholic places of worship have been attacked in such a short time leaves room for suspicion that there are also other reasons beyond simple robbery. We do not know whether there are political or denominational reasons, but we suspect that there is something else behind these facts”, says Fr. Obrou.
“The attacks began in late August and still continue, in different areas in Abidjan” continues Fr. Obrou. Even in other parts of the country there are attacks on Catholic Church buildings. In September a group of bandits attacked the Bishop of San Pedro’s residence.
“We had a meeting with President Ouattara, with the Minister of Defence and Security to report the situation. Policemen and gendarmes have been placed in front of some parishes, but robberies continue”, said Fr. Obrou.
Our photo shows part of Abidjan with St Paul’s Catholic Cathedral in the foreground.
Côte d’Ivoire is emerging from 10 years of division and violence, a turbulent period which began in September 2002 and concluded in April this year with the victory of the forces of the current President Alassane Ouattara, backed by French troops, and the UN, against those of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who is now under arrest.
The SMA has a Formation House in Cote d’Ivoire which was badly damaged during the disturbances. Little by little the necessary repairs are underway. At the same time the five staff members (from Bénin, Cote d’Ivoire, Italy, Poland and Zambia) have to carry on with the academic and spiritual formation of our seminarians. The academic year began on 26 September. The SMA has 21 students in Theology at the CFMA (a Consortium for Philosophy and Theology studies).They come from Bénin, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Zambia.
The lower number of students than former years allows time to do the rest of the repair work which will take some considerable time. At present work is ongoing in the Chapel and Dining Room.
Later, probably during the holidays next year, work will commence on repairing the rest of the buildings, including those containing the Library and Study Hall.
But despite the ‘building site’ activities the formation work continues – prayers, Mass, pastoral training, catechetics, visiting the sick and the Basic Christian communities in the area.
A huge amount of looting took place and most equipment has to be replaced, be it cookers, fridges, beds, chairs, tables, computers, farm implements, chickens. The list is endless. But with the help of our SMA supporters in Ireland and elsewhere the Society will help to fund this restoration.
Despite the material destruction and the fact that staff and students had to leave for some weeks when the fighting was going on around Abidjan, none of our staff or seminarians were killed. And, thanks be to God, young men will continue to offer themselves for priesthood in the SMA and for the service of Africa.
Below is a photo of downtown Abidjan