“I received a Muslim education. After school I went to the Koranic madrasa where I studied Islamic principles with children and teenagers my age,” Pierre says in the message shared by Fr. Rafael Casamayor, a Priest of the Society of African Missions (SMA), from the Dosso mission.
He adds, “Already at the end of my adolescence I started working as a welder in a workshop where one day I found some books that had been left on the tables. I picked one up and took it home. I started reading it and since then I have not separated myself from it; it was the New Testament. I loved reading that book; there were stories that touched my heart.”
Pierre says that he found the Bible so thrilling that he always looked forward to narrating Biblical experiences with his co-workers, all of them Muslims.
The stories, he says, were “full of tenderness and closeness to the poorest.”
The challenge, he continues, was getting someone with whom to share his joyful experience of the Gospel, with everyone around him being Muslim.
Pierre says he did not know how the Biblical stories corresponded to real life, adding, “I did not know any Christians. Later I was sent to work in Agadez and there I joined the Christian community. I wanted to know more about the Gospels and the lives of Christians.”
“My stay in Agadez was a blessing because of everything I learned and experienced with the very diverse Christian community: there were Beninese, Togolese, Burkinabe, French, Nigeriens,” the Nigerien lay missionary says.
He adds, “During my years in Agadez, I not only discovered the message of Jesus and a community of reference that helped me live it, but also opened a spiritual path for me that responded to my adolescent dreams that had fed my reading of the Gospels.”
In the May 17 report, Fr. Rafael echoes Pierre’s sentiments, saying, “It is not easy to be a Christian in Niger today, and even more so after the jihadism fueled by movements such as Al Qaeda or Boko Haram, present in the country.”
Describing the lay missionary, the SMA Priest says, “It did not take me long to find Pierre; he is a discreet man, of few words and with an intense interior life. He is a treasure in our mission because he takes us directly to the heart of our faith, the love of God and neighbor.”