Niamey (Agenzia Fides) - The cross, symbol of the parish of Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli, the missionary of the Society of African Missions kidnapped in September 2018 has been completely eliminated. "According to the testimonies gathered, the iron cross was fixed in 1995, the year of the creation of the parish. This is the same place where Fr. Pierluigi Maccalli was kidnapped in September 2018. Taking him away was also taking away the cross from the territory of Bomoanga, lost in the border savannah, in the middle of nowhere", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Mauro Armanino, Fr. Macalli’s confrere.
"They went on pilgrimage on the hill above all to ask for rain in the hard times of the drought season. It rained heavily every time, before the prayer even ended. Even the Muslims of the village invited Christians, given the "empirical" efficacy of prayer, to go to the hill of the cross a couple of miles from the village. The cross, high and made of iron, was seen from the village, up to two weeks ago", said Fr. Armanino.
"On Friday, May 15 unknown men climbed on the hill and tore down the cross, solidly screwed to the concrete with rust-proof bolts. They eliminated the cross from its place and then placed it on a stone not far away", says the missionary. "It is believed that it ws carried out by those whom the press and people call the 'jihadists', armed and sometimes hooded, who terrify Christians and the people of the villages in the region". "At the beginning of the month - the missionary continues - they or other affiliates visited the village chief remembering the guiding commandments of their strategy: avoid reporting them to government forces, not cutting trees, avoiding alcohol and above all refusing everything that is not Islam". "These are the precepts that accompany them and which, thanks to the weapons and abandonment of the Defense and Security Forces, keep the local farmers and in particular the Christians in a constant state of fear. The latter, for some time now, no longer meet in the church that Pierluigi had built for them and with them. Fear pushes them to pray in houses and church doors are closed. The torn cross is then the symbol of what we try to tear at any cost from the heart of the people: the faith lived in the Gospel that liberates. The farmers are patient and know well that the cross is written on the earth and no one will be able to take it away anymore", concludes Fr. Armanino. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 28/5/2020)