Skip to content

Niger: Poor and Forgotten

Interview With Missionary Father Josep Frigola

NIAMEY, Niger, JUNE 7, 2005 (Zenit) - Niger is virtually ignored by the international community, according to White Father Josep Frigola.

To know more about Niger, we interviewed the Spanish missionary who has worked for 20 years in Burkina Faso, and 20 years in Niger.

Q: Let's talk about Niger, the African country that seems to be the most remote, not to say ignored.

Father Frigola: It's very true. If it weren't for extreme situations of sociopolitical instability or fatal drought and famine, no attention would be paid to our country. Could it be because it's one of the poorest countries in the world, where there is little vested interest?

It is important to know that at present there are 12.5 million inhabitants, and that the population will double in 20 years, if the rate of demographic growth doesn't change. There is another factor that gives much food for thought: Virtually half the population is under 15 years of age!

Statistics to one side, what we need to ask is what to do about the situation of so many people, and what will be their fate.

Q: Islam has experienced great expansion in Niger. How do you see yourself in this context both as a foreigner and a Catholic missionary?

Father Frigola: Here Islam is tolerant, and to a large extent, fosters peaceful coexistence between natives and foreigners.

I have always been able to go everywhere without problems and have been properly received. At present, 90% of the population states that it is Muslim. But it is also true that it exists within a general environment of sociological religion.

Many people don't practice, but they adjust to the social life and the pressure of the family or clan community. No doubt the long historical process of integration, ethnic resistances and wars have fashioned an individual and collective "modus vivendi."

Since time immemorial, and taking into account Niger's relationship with Sudan, the caravans of traders and pilgrims [to Mecca] left their mark of Islamic faith.

Later, some pious and learned pioneers from Maghreb and the West established themselves in strategic places and coexisted easily with the people of the country. These movements of Sufi obedience organized themselves into Muslim orders and confraternities. The Qadiriya and Tijanya are the best known, and are the pillars of the more than 40 official associations that exist today.

Q: But not everything happened peacefully to achieve the present state of Islam, spread to virtually the entire country. Nigeria is next door, where serious conflicts and aggressions against individuals and institutions continue. How does all this affect them?

Father Frigola: The powers, both the old as well as the modern, with all their capacity to do and undo, have forged the establishment of different countries, either fostering or not fostering the penetration of a particular religion.

In any case, it is a fact that the numerous campaigns of proselytism and holy war against the "pagans" have never been able to make the substratum of ancestral religions and customs disappear from a considerable part of the population.

In regard to external influences and the impact of a more radical Islam, it must be said that in the decade of the '60s to '70s, after independence, many of Niger's students returned from Arab universities with new knowledge and a spirit of reform.

The traditional guidance and motivation of the faithful by sultans, sheikhs, imams and marabouts seemed too tolerant and soft to them; a purer and harder Islam was needed.

A new movement called Izala, of Wahhabite allegiance, has caused a great stir. Its reformist manifestations of a fundamentalist character are increasingly frequent.

Q: And the Christians? Are there important communities? Are they recognized?

Father Frigola: All Christians together, from all confessions, comprise 0.5% of the population. More or less one-third is Catholic and, for the time being, only one-third of this community is native of Niger. From this one can already deduce that we are an infinitesimal minority.

Despite everything, there is a representation of the Church in virtually all the important towns of the country. Moreover, the testimony they give goes far beyond what they represent numerically. Everyone speaks well of the schools, day clinics and social actions of the Catholic mission.

Q: What are the possibilities of evangelization in such a situation?

Father Frigola: Well understood, one can -- it being a duty for every disciple of Jesus -- to evangelize everywhere and in all circumstances.

However, before opening any book or reciting any prayer, to evangelize means to respect the other in his human condition, and to acknowledge and appreciate him.

To evangelize means to go out to meet the other, bringing him the Good News. It might be better to put theories aside and go to the core of what is lived day by day. In this part of the kingdom of God and of our world, evangelization and human development mutually complement and enrich one another.

On one hand, there is pastoral action more centered on the Christian community.

On the other, there is action of a social character open to the entire human community. One can fall into the temptation of separating them but, thank God, the Catholic Church in Niger is vigilant so as to not fall into this separation.

The communities of the capital and other regions cooperate generously in the struggle against poverty in general and in very specific areas such as education, health, promotion of women, emergency aid, etc. Many well-known organizations in the West assist. Mention should be made of one that is more solicitous about this, and which has headquarters in Ouagadougou: the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel.


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Niger, Poor, Frigola, Priest, Missionary, Africa

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.