AFRICA/TOGO - President of the Bishops' Conference: “The cross is our weapon of love against terrorism”

Monday, 13 November 2023 local churches   terrorism   evangelization

Lomé (Agenzia Fides) - The Church in Togo was originally born from the efforts of missionaries from two rival countries, Wilhelmine Germany and France of the Third Republic, after the historic events in Europe and its African colonies until the outbreak of the First World War. In an interview with Fides, we ask the first question about these origins to the President of the Togolese Bishops' Conference, Bishop Benoît Comlan Messan Alowonou of Kpalimé.

Togo, a German colony until the First World War, was placed under a French mandate by the then League of Nations. Did this historical fact have an impact on the life of the local Church?

The Church in Togo has a peculiar history, because it was founded by German Verbite missionaries who were forced to leave the country because of the First World War. French missionaries from the Society for African Missions (SMA) arrived later. In the period between the departure of the German missionaries and the arrival of the French missionaries, the Catholic community was without priests. However, the Verbite missionaries had trained catechists. And it was they who kept the light of faith before the arrival of the missionaries of the Society for African Missions.

So there is an important legacy. What is the situation of the church in Togo today?

Today we thank the Lord for the many priestly, missionary and religious vocations we have. However, in this situation of grace we have the problem of ensuring the formation of future priests and religious. An education not only from a theological and doctrinal point of view, but also from a social point of view. But the question also arises in Africa about the relationship between the church and civil society, which is constantly evolving.

In this context, this week there is news of the recent publication of the Bible in the Ewe language

The Ewé language has been recognized as the official language of the Church by the Dicastery for the First Evangelization and the New Particular Churches, and we have therefore translated the entire Bible into this language. So far, the Bible text translated by our brothers of the Presbyterian Church in Ewe has been used.

There is also a threat from terrorist groups from Burkina Faso in Togo. Are you worried about this threat?

I have to say that we are actually worried because the terrorists have been on Togo's doorstep for several years. But in any case, we keep faith and hope and above all the cross, which is our 'weapon of love'. I would also like to thank Caritas, which has come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in the northern region of the Savanna who are suffering from the instability caused by the terrorists, and in particular for the recent initiative (see Fides 6/10/2023) to pacify the border area with Burkina Faso and Benin. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 13/11/2023)