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Ivorian Catholic Priest Condemns Xenophobia, Calls for Promotion of Positive Messages

Fr. Norbert-Éric Abekan/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

In the wake of last week’s attack on Niger nationals living in Abidjan, the capital city of Ivory Coast, a Catholic Priest in the West African nation has condemned xenophobia and called on his compatriots to foster positive messages including encounters through social media.

In an incident that resulted in the death of one person and several others injured, Niger nationals were attacked on May 21 after a video of the Nigerien army fighting members of the Boko Haram militia in 2019 was circulated on social media in view of showing Nigeriens attacking Ivorians. 

“I call on every conscience and all those who defend fundamental human rights to denounce all xenophobic rhetoric in our public and private life,” the Parish Priest of the Holy Family Riviera 2 Parish of Abidjan Archdiocese, Fr. Norbert-Éric Abekan, says in a Tuesday, May 25 statement.

Xenophobia, he says, is “expressed by an attitude that excludes and confines the other to his or her difference.”

“These barbaric acts must no longer flourish in our beloved Ivory Coast. Xenophobia, in all its forms, is unacceptable,” her says, urging his compatriots “to fight against the fear of the other.”

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Fr. Abekan explains, “We are all potential foreigners because the movement of people is inherent in our human condition. The whole history of humanity is there to teach us this.”

Making reference to the Gospel according to Matthew, he says, “We must do unto others as we would have them do unto us is the condition to be reached for others and for ourselves.” 

The Ivorian Priest expresses his “sympathy and condolences” to the family of the deceased saying, “I have a pious thought for the person who was tragically snatched from life.0

To those injured in the attack, the Parish Priest of Holy Family Riviera 2 Parish prays that “they recover as soon as possible so that they can resume their activities among their brothers and sisters in this country.”

The May 19 attacks “teach us that it is important to care for one another in order to build a society based on relationships of brotherhood,” he reiterates.

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“A person and a people are only fruitful if they can creatively integrate openness to others, he further says, making reference to Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti.

He adds, “We are therefore called upon to welcome foreigners on a daily basis and in a spirit of understanding, each in the diversity of their origins and history. And we must rejoice in these encounters and mutual enrichment.”

Fr. Abekan calls on those engaging social media to “refrain from spreading divisive and dehumanizing ideas and statements and to commit themselves to promoting positive messages.”

He also urges policymakers in the West African nation to “design policies that guarantee the protection of all, the dignity of the human person and solidarity among peoples, and to fight relentlessly against all cases of violation of fundamental human rights through education, democracy and the law.”