Three days of prayer to save their “dear country from war and chaos”. In a statement of August 10, signed by Archbishop Laurent Lompo of Niamey, the bishops of Niger call on Catholics in the country to pray on Sunday August 13, Monday August 14 and Tuesday August 15.
Deeply concerned about the situation in their country, of 25 million inhabitants, 98% of whom are Muslims, they also declared Friday, August 18 as a day of fasting in the two dioceses of the country, Niamey and Maradi. Thus, in each parish, the faithful are invited to recite the Rosary and participate in Mass.
In an interview with Vatican News, Bishop Lompo, very reserved on a military intervention in Niger, also explained that the sanctions affecting Niger weigh on the inhabitants, who live in worry and fear. According to him, the international community should support the already hard-hit population, with nearly “1.2 million internally displaced people, without food or shelter; as well as closed schools”.
A population in fear
After the July 26 putsch, many international organizations and many countries, including France, announced the interruption of international aid, with the exception for the most part of emergency humanitarian aid. In addition, West African states on Thursday (10 August) ordered the deployment of a “standby force” from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to restore constitutional order in the Niger.
The President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, Mgr Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, has called on the President of Nigeria, who holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, not to launch a military intervention in Niger. A position taken before the arrival of Nigerian Muslim religious leaders, Saturday, August 12, in Niamey to meet officials of the military regime with the agreement of the President of Nigeria, as part of a “mediation mission”.
Calm tensions down
Its objective is “to ease the tensions created by the prospect of a military intervention by ECOWAS”, learned AFP from a source close to the Nigerian delegation. “The clerics are in Niamey to explain to the leaders of the junta that Nigeria is not fighting Niger and that the decisions taken about Niger are not those of Nigeria but those of ECOWAS as a regional bloc,” said the source close to the delegation.
Previous attempts at mediation came to nothing. The military regime in Niger refused on Tuesday August 8 to welcome a joint delegation from ECOWAS, the African Union (AU) and the UN.
In Nigeria, the voices of parliamentarians and political leaders are rising to the Senate, asking President Bola Tinubu to reconsider a possible military intervention by ECOWAS in Niger against the perpetrators of the coup. Northern Nigeria has historical commercial and social ties with Niger, with which it shares cultural, religious and linguistic affinities.