“We’ve just completed our journey that took us from Bobo-Dioulasso to Dorì, the most northern city of Burkina Faso; and then it was on to Niamey in Niger. The objective was to respond to the community that has gathered in the Focolare spirit to share experiences and the first fruits of life that have begun to spread in these lands of the Sahel.”
This is how focolarini Aurora and Pascal from the focolare in Bobo Dioulasso begin their recount. Bobo Dioulasso is the second largest city in Burkina Faso and the headquarters of the local Focolare Movement . Burkina with its 17 million inhabitants (50% Muslim, 30% Christian and 20% traditional religions) is one of the poorest countries in the world, along with nearby Niger.
“We reached Niamey, the capital of Niger, where we were welcomed with much joy by the community, including Archbishop Laurent Lompo who became a priest, he says, because of the first Mariapolis he attended. Archbishop Lompo is a real shepherd, close to his people and very concrete in his love. He shared with us his many experiences of friendship and dialogue with Muslims who make up 93% of the population of 10 million people. The relationship of the Christians with the Muslim world is a challenge, especially after January 17, 2015 when Islamist extremists burned more than 70 Christian churches following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.”
“Archbishop Lompo suggested that we also visit a woman in Hawa who had once attended Focolare events but now, for family reasons, had become a Muslim. Surprised and moved by our visit, she told us about her family and the beautiful hours together in the Mariapolis. When she heard that there would be another Mariapolis in the area, she promised that she would start preparig to be there. It was so beautiful to see in her and so many other Muslims that we met, their joy at being able to live in the City of Mary (Mariapolis) the experience of mutual love.”
“Lastly, we visited a small community in Niamey; such deep people, desirous to live the Gospel and go forward in the experience of unity. Maybe our visit encouraged them on that path. One of them said to us in the name of everyone else: “It’s true that here in Africa we have to live so many difficult situations, but with the spirituality of Chiara Lubich we learn to love others, taking on their suffering and pain. How much I want this ideal of brotherhood to invade the Church and our country’s society!”
Aurora De Oliveira and Pascal Pontien Ntawuyankira