Meet Young Catholic Influencers from 50 African Countries Evangelizing Digital Peripheries

A section of the members of the Synod Digital Youth Faith Influencers (ASDYFI). This is group of over 200 young people drawn from 50 African countries seeking to evangelize their peers on social media platforms. Credit: ASDYFI

Sergent Gomez yearns to see his parish grow. The member of Blessed Sacrament parish of the Catholic Diocese of Banjul in the Gambia laments about the lack of vitality in the Catholic Church in the West African country owing to the absence of new “faces” among young people participating in church activities.

“I have always seen the same faces in the Church where I go. Our numbers are not growing. And young people no longer come to the Church,” Sergent tells ACI Africa.

At slightly over 95 percent, Islam is the majoritarian religion in the Gambia and Christianity accounts for 4 percent of the total population in the country. Even though a majority of the Christian population are Catholics (2 percent), this number is facing a plunge as young people shun the Church.

This is what prompted Sergent to start moving across the various parishes of the Diocese of Banjul, seeking the blessing of Church leaders to bring as many young people as possible back to the Church.

“I am looking for 10 young Catholics to start with. I already have two that I am journeying with together with hundreds of other young people from across the continent who are trying to evangelize their peers using social media,” he says in the Monday, June 26 interview.


Sergent is one of the African Synod Digital Youth Faith Influencers (ASDYFI), a group of over 200 young people drawn from 50 African countries.

The digital faith influencers are young. And they have the burning desire to evangelize their fellow youth who have resigned themselves to the comfort of the digital peripheries.

In Uganda, Davis Ampereza who also belongs to the continental group of digital influencers understands the urgency of bringing his peers back to the faith, noting that the Catholic Church, in particular, is facing a serious threat from the country’s Pentecostal churches.

Ampereza tells ACI Africa that other Christian denominations have made it a habit “to recruit” new members directly from the Catholic Church. “They come to the Church to get young people. The next thing you hear is that they are attending crusades in other churches and they never come back,” he says in the Tuesday, June 27 interview with ACI Africa.

With the ASDYFI, Ampereza has seen the opportunity to evangelize the youths who have been described as “the Church on the digital periphery”.

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“I am very active on social media. I have many platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook where I used to post content about my professional life as a Human Resources practitioner. But lately, I have realized how fulfilling it is to share more about my Catholic faith on these platforms,” he says.

ASDYFI is pegged on the Holy Father’s message during the 2019 World Youth Day, when he challenged the young people to be “influencers” following the example of the Virgin Mary whose “Yes” transformed the world.

Pope Francis described Mary as the most influential woman in history by trusting “in the love and promises of God, the only force capable of making all things new.”

“Are you willing to be an influencer like Mary, who dared to say, 'Let it be done'?” the Holy Father asked the young people, and added, “Only love makes us more human and fulfilled; everything else is a pleasant but useless placebo.”

In his attempt to describe the digital peripheries, Fr. Pascal Mwakio, ASDYFI social media coordinator says, “Behind these digital platforms are real people, the majority of whom are young people. You may not find them in the physical world but they exist in these peripheries.”


Most of those in the digital peripheries stopped going to church but can still access content online to fill their spiritual needs, the Kenyan member of the Clergy of the Archdiocese of Mombasa tells ACI Africa.

Fr. Pascal says that ASDYFI is the fruit of the Synodal conversation that young people in Africa had with Pope Francis in November last year.

He says that the initiative brings on board young people who may have missed out on the conversations on the Synod on Synodality.

“Youth may not have participated fully in the structured channels of the local church because most of them have their digital space in the social media where they find communities interacting with them. Some don't go to the church frequently but can manage to have people on the different social media platforms to nourish them spiritually,” the Kenyan Catholic Priest says in the Monday, June 26 interview with ACI Africa.

He says that the young people’s participation in the synod digitally in November last year was a proper Synodality of journeying with them and accompanying them pastorally.

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Youths from nine African countries participated in the online encounter with Pope Francis on 1 November 2022, after which the idea to spread the Holy Father’s message to all African countries was born and spearheaded by the Pan African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) unit called Church of Now, which has subunits called Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and ASDYFI.

“The word influencer was used by Pope Francis who referred to Mary the Mother of Jesus as the influencer of God. Saint Don Bosco was also an influencer of his time. Youths who are the church of now can also influence and be digital missionaries in their social media spaces,” Fr. Pascal says.

According to the official of PACTPAN, the presence of the church which listens to the youth in the digital platforms becomes like the good neighbor (Good Samaritan) in the gospel who accompanies the wounded person.

“Those in the social media have their wounds which cause them not to frequent the church, or prefer that space. The presence of the church to journey with them is to help them strengthen their hopes, remove their fears of communicating and being listened to from the digital peripheries,” he says.

The Kenyan Catholic Priest says that the idea of ASDYFI is to bridge the gap between the Clergy, women and men Religious, and youth laity so that they can be part of the church journey and full participants, realizing that they are being listened to.

ASDYFI’s WhatsApp has 199 members drawn from all African countries except Somalia, Sudan, and Madagascar. Officials of ASDYFI are working to ensure that young Catholics in these countries are represented in the group.

Some of the activities in the group include an online Small Christian Community (SCC) held monthly to reflect on the day’s Bible readings.

Members of the group also participate in thematic discussions on key issues affecting young people in Africa, such as unemployment and migration.

The members engage in online meetings for planning of their activities and generate content for spiritual formation which is approved by Priests and Nuns in the group and shared on various social media platforms. The social media handles are: TikTok (@digitalfaithinfluencers), Facebook (African Digital Youth Faith Influencers), and Instagram ASDYFI (African Digital Synod Youth Faith Influencers).

They also take part in impromptu quiz sessions and challenges regarding church documents and matters of faith.

The group is also preparing some of its members to participate in this year’s WYD in Lisbon, Portugal. They are currently recording videos with a common song for participation in the August event.

Sr. Josephine Bakhita, teaching at Kenyan-based Uzima University and also assisting at PACTPAN’s Church of Now told ACI Africa in a Monday, June 26 interview that members of ASDYFI will start training as digital faith influencers on September 1.

“We have already developed a training manual to churn out certified digital faith influencers. They will be feted in Rome at the end of the training,” Sr. Josephine said, and added, “We want our influencers to call their peers who are very difficult to get in the physical Church.”

The main challenge that the group faces is language barrier as it caters for the needs of English, French, Portuguese and Swahili speakers from across the African continent, Sr. Josephine said, and added, “We try to translate main messages using members or by using an app.”

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.