Madagascar – situated off the southern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean – is the second-largest island state in the world after Indonesia. More than three-quarters of its 25.6 million inhabitants live in poverty – the country is thus one of the poorest in the world. Half of the population belongs to traditional African religions. Christians make up about 40% of the population, and of these, about 8 million are Catholics. Islam is on the rise – including some radical splinter groups that also lead attacks on Christian institutions. Madagascar was therefore high on ACN’s priority list in 2019.
Ten years ago, only 1% of the population was Muslim; today this number has reached about 7% – with a rising trend. The local Church laments the fact that money from the Gulf States is being used to promote the spread of radical Islam and that violence has been on the increase since then. Thus 2019 saw increased attacks against Christians and Church institutions. As of late, many mosques have even been built in places where no Muslims have lived before.
Moreover, non-Muslims are encouraged through financial incentives to convert to Islam in many places and women are paid to wear burkas. Politicians are reinforcing this development, as immigration from Muslim countries, especially Turkey, is strongly promoted by the state. However, the visit of Pope Francis in September 2019 was very encouraging for the Church and its believers in Madagascar.
We thank all benefactors for their immense love for our priests.Bishop Raharilamboniaina of Morondava
This was an important sign of hope for many Christians on the island who often feel cut off from the rest of the world. In order to be prepared to meet current challenges, evangelisation work is especially imperative to deepen the faith. ACN supports the country’s priests with Mass stipends, promotes the training of priests and religious and provides existential aid to contemplative nuns. As a result of poor health care and the outbreak of a measles epidemic, ACN was also instrumental in allowing 69 aspiring priests at the seminary in Antsiranana to receive measles vaccinations during the reporting year.
A boat for pastoral care
In mid-western Madagascar, ACN was able to provide 21,000 euros to the diocese of Maintirano to purchase a motorboat that is used for pastoral care along the rivers and coastline. The diocese spans approximately 450 kilometres from north to south. The bishop and priests would be on the road for three days in a car, which would be considerably more expensive. In addition, some places are difficult to reach by land. Thanks to the boat, pastoral care for the faithful could be significantly intensified.