Log-book: September 2002

  In Niger  Cries of pain 
  During the flight 
  French Bibliography  Archives of Partenia 




The Bible

Special Edition

In Niger

I was going by car from Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) to Niamey the capital of Niger; the distance is 530 km (350 miles). I had plenty of time to speak about their country with the Nigerois who were accompanying me. There are 11 million inhabitants in Niger with about 20 000 Catholics. More than 70% of the population is under 25 years of age. Only 25% of the population goes to school! Niger is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world.

mosquée à Niamey  Islam is preached everywhere and the fundamentalists are becoming more and more influential and often violent.  

For the moment the Catholic Church is left in peace: like an ant that walks by itself no one wants to step on it, it is negligible. What about Aids? It is hard to know: there is no statistics! When Moslems represent a majority in a country they do not want people to think that they have as many Aids patients than the other countries. They say that it's the debauched Christian countries that suffer the most from the disease.

Hunger is endemic due to the drought. All are poor with two thirds having less than one dollar per day as income.

Most of the youths cannot find a job. The best of them want to immigrate to Europe or to North America. They say: "to leave is to die a little but to stay is to die for sure".  marché

Considering this state of misery and illiteracy, I wonder why there is no uprising, no civil war. There are always rumors of coups d'état, mutinies and revolts. However the Moslem religion strengthens the cohesion of the population. It teaches patience and endurance.

chrétiens en Niger  I am organizing a retreat for a group of Church employees,  

people engaged to help in development, nuns, monks, priests and bishops. There are 65 of them coming from all parts of Niger.

Although the heat overcomes me and that I am looking for rain, I have the joy to discover the Church becoming more and more African and composed of Nigerois. The Church is a seed that will grow and will be like a ferment of the humanity to come. It is the salt that gives taste.






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Cries of pain
I have a lot of admiration for Ahmed, a young human rights activist. He participates in struggles for illegal refugees and those with inadequate housing. During the second round of the presidential elections, he was part of the youth " Spontaneous Movement " which stood up against the National Front.
pas l'injustice  He can't tolerate injustice and gets involved in every struggle. During a demonstration held in Strasbourg, he was arrested and accused of assaulting a policeman. 
While in prison in Strasbourg, Ahmed wrote me this touching letter narrating the cries of pain coming from the prisoners, cries often heard in the Psalms.

" I am deeply moved by your trust in me. They say they have put me in confinement, but how can they isolate me from the struggle, the love of God and the other human beings.
What is more difficult in isolation is to hear the cries of pain coming from the other prisoners.  les cris de douleur
I hear their screams, Jacques, and if I had really hit that policeman, I would scream like them. I believe that if my companion's scream and cry; it is because they think they are alone, deprived, at least for some, of their wives and their children or of their friends. Prisons are not the right place to cure them of their hate.

Bye for now my brother. With love. Ahmed ".



During the flight

pilotage  On the plane bringing me back from Montreal to Paris, a stewardess came to tell me that I was invited by the flight commander to visit the cockpit. This is an invitation I simply could not refuse. I took a seat between the flight commander and a young captain; I was admiring the rising moon in the night. Very rapidly the conversation turned to the World Youth Days held in Toronto. 

" I am against these large gatherings and all this Papal Stardom " said the flight commander. " What do you think of that? ". " The youth coming back from Toronto and who are aboard your plane are enthusiastic. In speaking with them, I saw their faces expressing the joy of the Gospel and showing how beautiful faith is. What is regretful with the World Youth Days is the absence of the African Continent. Not only because the cost is prohibitive, but also largely because most young Africans were not able to get their visas ".

" I am an agnostic, declared the commander. During my marriage ceremony in the Church, I said to the priest: I will not pronounce a word nor will I make a gesture that will give the impression I have the faith. But I think the Catholic Church has a role to play in defending the values of the society. In the past, I disapproved what the Pope had said on Aids in Africa. Today, I think he was right in doing so: he is part of a system and cannot do otherwise than to defend it. His role is to mention the principles, to show the ideal. Otherwise, he will break the system".

" System or not, I replied, the important thing is the defense of human beings. Love over the law. Life over principles. Sabbath is made for man and not the reverse ". The young captain observing silence until then heartily gave me his support.

coucher de soleil sur l'Atlantique  The conversation became very lively! Going out of the cabin, I saw that the crewmembers were eating while the passengers were asleep. They offered me some cheese and an excellent Bordeaux wine. 

One of them, Dominique, made me this request: " I've been married for one year; I lost my ring that had been blessed while I was swimming at the "Reunion". I bought another one. Would you please bless my ring?' Dominique then placed the ring in the palm of my hand. With the crew all around us, I blessed the ring. He was delighted.