Jihadist violence continues to spread across Africa. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has drawn attention to the fact that since November last year terrorist attacks have also been affecting northern Benin. Until now the countries in northwest Africa most affected by Jihadism had been Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria.
Because of the danger of terrorism, the Church in northern Benin is restricted in the exercise of its pastoral work, says the foundation. As an example, ACN cites the Benedictine sisters of the “Notre Dame de l’Écoute” convent in the Diocese of Natitingou, which has been present in the country for 17 years.
With a heavy heart, this year the religious sisters were forced to leave their convent for an undetermined period and settle in Parakou, in central Benin. “We were conscious of being a preferred target for attacks, as we are a group of seven sisters with several factors working against us: we are foreigners, white and female,” says Sister Ana, an ACN project partner.
Natitingou is 100 km from the country’s northern border with Burkina Faso, and as early as the end of last year the sisters had been warned of the growing risk of kidnapping for foreigners in the region.
The spread of violence and insecurity has put a brake on the growth of the young Diocese of Natitingou, which is very vigorous: evangelisation began there 80 years ago, in 1942, while Benin itself received its first missionaries 160 years ago. The proportion of Catholics in the country currently stands at 25%.