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Recent Violence in Niger “a blow to the heart of fragile Church”: Missionary Cleric

Image of a firearm./Credit: Courtesy Photo

Last week’s attack on a village in the Tillaberi region within Niger’s Archdiocese of Niamey that led to the fleeing of Christians from the region is a blow to a local church that is considered “fragile”, a Missionary Cleric ministering in the affected areas has said.

On May 13, during the feast of Eid al-Fitr, gunmen reportedly stormed the village of Fantio in an attack that left at least five people dead. 

In a Tuesday, May 18 report, Fr. Mauro Armanino who ministers in the affected region says the May 13 attack that targeted Dolbel Parish, “the first Catholic community in the country,” is “a blow to the heart of the fragile Church of the Archdiocese of Niamey.”

“After the attacks, on the day of the conclusion of the Ramadan feast, in the village of Fantio, the fear of other attacks against the Christian community, has led people to flee from the villages and take refuge in the capital Niamey,” Fr. Armanino recounts in the Agenzia Fides report.

The member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) further says, “The number of Catholics who have fled the area is about a hundred.”

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“The fact that the small Catholic community, made up of members of the Songhay group, has chosen to leave for safety reasons, is a sign that makes the entire diocesan and civil community to reflect,” Fr. Armanino continues.

The ambush comes two years after the same Dolbel Parish was attacked and the Parish Priest wounded in one hand and leg.

Tahoua and Tillaberi regions of Niger that border Northern Mali have been scenes of recurring armed attacks since 2017, a situation that has occasioned the placing of the two regions under a state of emergency.

The attacks are attributed to terrorist groups that operate in Northern Mali, according to a news report.

In March, suspected jihadists on motorcycles attacked the villages of Intazayene, Bakorat and Wistane in Niger’s Tahoua, leading at least 137 people dead. 

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Following the attack, Fr. Arokiya Dass told ACI Africa that the people of God were “living a difficult situation” and appealed for spiritual solidarity.

“Let us pray for the victims, for their families and for the entire population so that the violence suffered may not cause them to lose trust in the path of democracy, justice and peace,” Fr. Dass said during the March 25 interview with ACI Africa.