A flourishing Christian community in Niger is struggling at the present time four months after their parish priest was kidnapped and five more missionary priests had to leave for security reasons.
More than four months have passed since 17 September when Father Luigi (Gigi) Maccalli, from the Society for African Missions (SMA), was kidnapped from Bomoanga.
The Vicar General of the SMAs, Father Antonio Porcellato, said: "This tragic event radically changed the whole life of the Church in the Gourmantché sector, the most flourishing of the Archdiocese of Niamey in terms of the number of Christians and catechumens."
Fr Antonio said: "For security reasons, our three European SMA missionaries, Fr Vito Girotto and two Spanish Fathers Isidro and Pepe, had to leave the area and cannot return."
He explained that two other priests, Fr Dass from India and Fr Sylvestre from Benin have remained and are part of a team serving Makalondi's three parishes in Gourmantché. But that service is limited because motorbikes and cars can only circulate during the day and only on the asphalt road that goes from Niamey to Burkina Faso. Many rural communities can only be reached on foot or by bicycle."
In the parish of Bomoanga you cannot even access on foot all the part that goes towards the border with Burkina because of the risk of attacks."
Throughout the sector, pastoral and social initiatives of the parishes have been suspended, except for Sunday Masses in the main centres accessible by car.
"It is a time of trial for all in which only faith and perseverance will support the communities of the villages, who must go forward without the help of priests and missionaries," Fr Gigi said.
"All ten confreres with whom I shared my experience in Niger are convinced that their place is here, in this largely Muslim society, and have reaffirmed their desire to collaborate with the Archbishop of Niamey, Mgr Laurent Lompo and the other pastoral workers of the diocese.
Fr Antonio appealed for prayers for the community, and for the safe return of Father Gigi Maccalli.