In Mali's north, the Church is but slowly rebuilding

"There are suicide bombers, and bombs left here and there. All pastoral work is on hold for the time being."

Father Germain Arama  is in charge of finances for the Diocese of Mopti, Mali. He spoke with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need May 19, 2016, about the situation in the north of the country, which was briefly controlled by jihadists in 2012, and still remains dangerous territory.

By Emmanuelle Kaeser 

The Church hasn't really re-established herself in the North since 2012 on account of the security situation. There are no resident priests there and no stable presence of the Church. Would you confirm that?

It's true. It is a difficult situation. There are suicide bombers, and bombs left here and there. All pastoral work is on hold for the time being. The only priest who goes there from time to time to celebrate Mass, has to leave by plane with an armed guard. Or, if he goes by car, it takes him a whole day and there is no possibility for him of residing there permanently.

Are there still tensions between Christians and Muslims in the country?

Christians and Muslims live side by side, day in, day out. It's not from there that the problems come. At the start of the rebellion there were some who thought the underlying reasons were religious, but in fact it wasn't the case. The northern region, known as Azawad, wanted independence and it took advantage of the crisis in Libya to get help in the fight. That was the problem, above all.

A Catholic church in Mali.jpg

So what about the jihadists?

There are two sorts of jihadists with two different visions. There are those who joined in with the rebels in order to gain independence for Azawad, and there are those who wanted to make the whole of Mali Islamic. In any case, they did not see eye to eye.

What has happened to those who were trying to impose sharia in Mali? Are there still some of them left in the country?

They were defeated. Some of them were killed, others — no one knows where they are. They must have hidden, or they have fled to Mauritania, or to Algeria, here or there. But we have to accept that there are some of them still among us, still here. Some of them even came from our own villages. That is why there are still bombings and suicide attacks.

What are the principal challenges facing the Catholic Church today?

Reconciliation. Many Christians have lost family members. The Muslims have also lost dear ones, here an uncle, there a brother. There has been so much plotting! But now people simply have to agree to be reconciled. And if we, we Christians, want a lasting peace, we have to go through this process of reconciliation. It is unavoidable.

A Catholic church in Mali; ACN photo

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