Why Evangelizing Chad Remains Challenging despite Rapid Growth of Church in Africa

Catholic Bishops in Chad. Credit: CET

“There are many challenges,” says Sacred Heart Fr. Emile Hathouna, parish priest of Saint Francis of Assisi Church in the Chad Diocese of Lai. “The mission of evangelization is not an easy one in Chad, economically, politically, and morally. We are still carrying out primary evangelization in the country which is so demanding.”  

Despite the exponential growth of the Church in Africa, the Catholic Church in Chad is still relatively young, with European missionaries first settling in N’djamena and Moundou in the south in the first part of the 20th century.  

The country now has a total of 6 dioceses, one vicariate and one archdiocese which is N’djamena. The population of Chad is 18 million and made up of Catholics, Protestants and Muslims. Catholics are mostly concentrated in the Southern and Central part of the country and represent 45% of the Christian population.  

Sacred Heart Fr. Prosper Nyuydze, curate of St. Benoit de Lolo parish in the Chad Diocese of Moundou, told the Register, “For the 10 months I have been in Chad, my experience in the diocese of Moundou, the economic capital, is a good one despite the ups and downs.  

“Spiritually speaking, the believers are really struggling with their faith. They are God-fearing and loving people very committed and ready to sacrifice anything and everything,” he said. But he added that socially, there is a kind of “cultural bridge between Christians, animists and Muslims but the economic situation has broken down the connection between these community of persons.”


According to Fr. Hathouna, “Christians in Chad were spoon fed by missionaries who even paid Christians for attending meetings or rallies. They didn’t have to contribute anything to the life of the Church as the former prelates made [Christians] know that they were poor, and thus had nothing to give. This mentality is still very difficult to be changed with the arrival of indigenous prelates who don’t have same financial and economic opportunities as Europeans missionaries.” 

“I can’t even talk about almsgiving,” Fr. Hathouna said. “In fact you can’t live on alms because the people don’t give. What they give on Sundays can’t even fuel your tank whereas you have to cover miles to get to another station for Mass — not to even talk about Mass intentions. We teach them during catechesis and homilies about the importance of offering Masses, this they were not used to, it wasn’t even mentioned to them.”  

Concerning the poverty in Chad, Fr. Nyuydze said they are still surviving thanks to well-wishers and benefactors. Concerning his outstation parish, Fr. Hathouna said, “We have 10 mission stations, 86 basic Christian communities and offerings vary from 3000 CFA ($5) to 13000 CFA ($22) depending on the periods. 

“During the school period, there are many youths and some public servants around so the offering can go up to 13000 CFA, but during holidays there are no Masses in the out stations because of the difficult nature of the roads which are very unpractical during that period,” Fr. Hathouna explained. “That’s why during holidays offerings go down to 3000 CFA or even less.”  

He added that a further difficulty is how to take care of pastoral agents such as catechists who do much of the pastoral work.

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Fr. Nyuydze said there are no Mass offerings in his parish and the almsgiving is very minimal. “They do contribute in kind, but the Church in Chad cannot survive on their minimal contribution. Poverty is at its peak.” Fr. Nyuydze’s diocese of Moundou has 17 parishes with 45 priests, both diocesan and missionary. It also has 36 mission stations.

“Young vocations are rare and hard to find but we are on our knees for Gods intervention,” he said. If Christians don’t contribute to the welfare of the Church how do their ministers survive apart from relying on benefactors for Mass intentions?”

Fr. Hathouna said the present Bishop of Lai, Mons. Nicolas Nadji Bab, gives each priest 22 Mass intentions every year but he said, “this is not enough but one has to manage despite all the economic difficulties involve in the ministry.”

But Fr. Hathouna, who has been working in the diocese for five years, is pleased to be one of the bishop’s consultors, and is president of the consecrated in the diocese. Talking about his pastoral plan, he said, “We administer adult baptism only during Easter, infant baptism at Christmas, and confirmation only at the invitation of the bishop, depending on his calendar and availability.”

The Catholic Church in Chad is the youngest in Africa and still under primary evangelization where Christians still believe that the Church belongs only to the clergy and they are like spectators who don’t have to contribute to its growth.


“When you call a meeting, at the end of the meeting you have to give them some little token as sign of motivation,” said Fr. Hathouna. “If not, they won’t show up for the next meeting.”

Now that they have nothing to offer them, some of the faithful are reluctant to assist in meetings when they are called, and many don’t turn up. “There is still much to do in terms of evangelization to change the mentality, even during youth events,” he said, and added, “They were used to be sponsored by the former bishop who usually hired nice buses, but the new bishop, because he’s without enough means, he can’t continue doing that, so he asked the youths to be content with any car they see available.” 

He added that some started suspecting the priests were using the money for themselves. “The former Bishop even asked priests not to ask for contributions from the faithful because the people are poor and don’t have money,” he said.

“The Christians have to understand that the Church has evolved,” Fr. Hathouna continued. “It’s not the affair of the Priest alone but a synergy and the laity are supposed to take an active part in the life of their Church by contributing,” he said.

He also pointed out that Chad is not such a peaceful country as the peace there is fragile. “You don’t know what can happen the next minute, and this atmosphere has made Christians come to Church with weapons such as knifes even when you preach the gospel of peace, love and forgiveness,” he said.  “They talk always of peaceful, pacific co-existence but it’s not easy because of the constant conflict between farmers and herders,” said Fr. Hathouna, alluding to the fact that farmers are generally Christians, and the herders are Muslim.

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Fr. Nyuydze echoed his views. “Muslims are highly favored by the current regime, leading to social, economic and cultural injustice,” he said. “I can say without mincing words that there’s cold war in the pipeline. Sooner or later there will be explosion if nothing is done and done fast,” he said, adding that politically, the people are “hijacked by the regime and its foreign accomplices.”

For this reason, he said Christians now find it difficult to interact with the Zaghawa, Chad’s ethnic Muslim population, and the conflict and tension between the farmers and herders is not forgotten. When the farmers complain, they are simply ignored or exploited. 

“The recent massacre in Chad can help you visualize the pastoral challenges at stake that Chad is going through,” Fr. Nyuydze said, referring to when 11 villagers in the southern part of the country were killed by bandits in a region troubled by violence between herders and sedentary farmers. “Most of those massacred were Christians.”

Another issue Fr. Hathouna raised is public service appointments which, he said, are not merit based but more tribal oriented as Muslims win many appointments without much education. He said this is causing resentment, especially among the educated who are from the South. He even said it has come to a point where indigenous priests are thinking of involving themselves in the country’s politics.

But despite all these challenges, Fr. Nyuydze said believers, especially Christians, “have not lost hope, faith and charity, and that is our mission statement.” He outlined that one major pastoral challenge which is a stumbling block is the poor level of education in Chad. He said according to the Bishop of Moundou, all development must pass through valuable and quality education system.

Also another challenge is the believe in sorcery, witchcraft, magic, Freemasonry, and Rosicrucianism which are rampant in Africa and Chad is no exception.

“Nevertheless, through caritas, justice and peace, measures are taken in order not to leave our God-fearing people dumfounded and lost in this valley of tears,” Fr. Nyuydze said. “Last year the bishops of Chad refused to take part in the national dialogue because it was not inclusive and only favored a particular group and religion.”

According to Fr. Hathouna, priests receive help through other means, namely the Pontifical Missionary Societies. Selected projects in a parish can benefit if the organization deems them worthy. These will then benefit the local population — projects such as healthcare, education, and nutrition, especially as Chad constantly suffers from flooding during rainy seasons.

“Priests who have benefactors get additional help but not all priests have benefactors,” noted Fr. Hathouna, adding, “Notwithstanding the work of evangelization, which, as it’s in its primary phase, still has a long way to go, we are building from small Christian communities, giving constant catechesis etc.”

“The Church here doesn’t have a solid foundation compared to other neighboring countries,” he concluded, “and more still needs to be done, especially changing the mentality of the Christians.”