Niamey - "In Niamey, the capital of the country, during the celebrations, prayers continue for the release of father Gigi who has been in the hands of his kidnapperss for three months. At the end of each Mass, celebrated in the communities of the diocese of Niamey, a prayer is recited unanimously and, probably, we will also do it at Christmas, unless, in the meantime, Fr. Gigi is freed: this is what we all hope. If so, it will be a wonderful Christmas. Hope does not die": says Father Vito Girotto, a priest of the Society for African Missions in Niger, to Agenzia Fides. "I had to leave the parish after the kidnapping of father Gigi Maccalli - he writes - and come to Niamey", he says.
The missionary continues: "We know that there are dozens of other people who have been kidnapped, especially women and children, and we ask ourselves what profit the armed groups make and who directs them. The situation is confusing, partly because there are many well-armed military forces at stake, made up of African and Western soldiers, including Italians, who should intervene to defend the population from continuous attacks. It is a war that sows terror, fear and death and where one does not understand well what conquest one wants: a country, or an area with its riches, a holy war in the name of a religion, or other hidden aims, but which however are stained with so much innocent blood".
Reflecting on the Christmas celebrations and his now closed mission, Fr. Girotto observes: "In this climate it is difficult to imagine what Christmas will be like in Makalondi or Diffa, an area on the border with Nigeria: at midnight there will probably be no solemn Mass. Christians will pray in the small chapels of their villages or in family courtyards. We are going through a moment of trial, but we are sure that the prayer and faith of Christians and of catechumens will be nourished thanks to the proclamation of the Word of God and to the witness of the lives of many catechists and animators".
"At Christmas I will be in Niamey. It will certainly be different from those spent in the parish of Makalondi during the eight years spent in that mission, which is currently experiencing a situation of great insecurity". Girotto concludes: "It will be a different Christmas. In past years the Christmas season was full of celebrations, dances and community lunches where Christians and Muslims gathered together. A simple Christmas was that at the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem, but full of hope, liberation and peace". >>