Madagascar is the world’s second largest island state and is known as a natural paradise with lush biodiversity. In contrast, there has been widespread destruction and exploitation of nature in recent decades. Three quarters of the 25.6 million inhabitants live in poverty. The local Church faced great challenges in 2020 due to the consequences of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. ACN supported the priests, in particular with Mass stipends, as they were barely able to support themselves during the pandemic.
Islamisation is progressing steadily in Madagascar. Although 50% of the inhabitants belong to traditional African religions and 40% to a Christian church (of which 4.7 million are Catholics), the local Church laments that money from the Gulf states is being used to promote the spread of radical Islam. Even in places where no Muslims live yet, mosques are already being built. Non-Muslims are being persuaded to convert through financial incentives and women are being paid to wear the full-face veil.
In recent years, there has been an increase in Islamist attacks. The current immigration policy further increases Islamisation, as immigration from Muslim countries, especially Turkey, is immensely encouraged. Ten years ago, there were only 1% Muslims, but today there are almost 7% – and the trend is rising. In the recent past, Islamist attacks on Christian institutions have increased. Many Christian communities have been living in fear ever since.
Islamist attacks and the aftermath of the corona-virus weigh heavily on the local Church here
In 2020, however, this fear took a back seat to the pandemic. There was also a lockdown in Madagascar, with all Catholic dioceses striving to continue to care for their faithful as intensively as possible – including through the media. For ACN, the first priority was to support priests through Mass stipends, as they are irreplaceable for pastoral care, but are suffering extreme hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic. Support also continued for the formation of seminarians from several dioceses in the country.
A chapel for prisoners
Father Henryk Sawarski has been a missionary on the island of Madagascar for more than 40years. In 2015, he became the prison chaplain in Port-Bergé. In the beginning, he only “preached” through deeds, for example by ensuring the improvement of hygiene and medical care. In addition, he brought food and clothing to prisoners. Soon, however, the prisoners asked him for his prayers and blessings, wanted to celebrate religious services and sought advice to change their lives. The problem: there was no space for this. ACN therefore helped to build a prison chapel, which was inaugurated with a festive consecration in 2020.