“They told me you will die in hell if you don’t convert to Islam. It was this psychological pressure that I went through. But in general, they always respected me,” he says.
When asked about what kept him going during the psychological torture, the Cleric says, “Resist in order to exist! This is the motto that accompanied me and gave me the courage to go forward day after day.”
He adds, “They took me away in pyjamas and slippers. I had nothing and I was seen as nothing by these jihadist Muslim zealots who considered me an impure "kefir" (infidel) and condemned me to hell.”
His strongest support, he recalls, was a simple morning and evening prayer that his mother had taught him while growing up as well as the recitation of the Holy Rosary.
“I was never afraid, I was ready to die; I cried to God, I was sometimes upset with Him, but I always felt He was there and He was the only presence that sustained me... I prayed my Rosary, which I fabricated from a small string,” the member SMA recalls.
(Story continues below)
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Fr. Maccalli had been a missionary in Ivory Coast for several years before being commissioned to the Archdiocese of Niamey at Bomoanga parish, which has been described as “an isolated and neglected area because of the lack of roads, communications and infrastructure.”
In the interview, he describes his captivity as a “desert”, a time of great silence, purification, a return to the origins and to the essential.
“It was an opportunity for me to see the film of my life… I asked myself many questions and I cried out with passion and complaint to God: where are You? Why have You abandoned me? Until when Lord?”
Every day and especially on Sundays, Fr. Maccalli recited the words of the Consecration, “This is My body given up for you”, and prayed a French hymn “a new day begins, a day received from you ... we place it in your hands as it will be ...” and at the end, added, “I have no other offering than the offering of my life!”, he says, adding that his request for a Bible was denied.
The Cleric says that from May this year, he was allowed to follow the commentary on Sunday's Gospel on Vatican Radio. One day, he says, he was lucky enough to follow Pope Francis’ Homily.
“I put my ear closer and tuned the radio better, and I found myself at the beginning of the Pentecost Day Mass in communion with the Pope, the Church and the world. I said to myself, today I am in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and at the same time I am on a mission in Africa,” he recalls, recounting what he describes as one of the most emotional experiences during his captivity.
With the past behind him, including the psychological torture and a death threat, Fr. Maccalli expresses gratitude to those who continually kept him in their prayers until he was released.
And as for his abductors, the Cleric says, “I still feel very sad for these young people, indoctrinated by propaganda videos that they listened to all day long. They don't know what they are doing!”
He adds, in reference to the members of the Islamist group that kept him captive, “I have no hard feelings towards my kidnappers and jailers. I have prayed for them and I continue to do so.”
Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.