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A meeting in Ghardaïa, Algeria, of
Salesian
 Missionaries of Mary Immaculate,
with (right)
Sr. Lalaina, a La Salette Sister

Editor: Recently three La Salette Sisters – (from left: Srs. Anna, Bernadette, and Sr. Lalaina) arrived in Ghardaïa, Algeria, at the invitation of Bishop Claude Rault of Laghouat. The following article gives a brief overview of his ideas and his ministry. 

AFRICA / ALGERIA (from Rome, Agenzia Fides) – According to Claude Jean Narcisse Rault, M. Afr. (White Fathers), the Catholic Bishop of Laghouat, Algeria, "Friendship is the key to overcome mutual fear between Christians and Muslims. In fact we must learn and not take everything that is proposed by the press and television as an accurate representation of the Muslim world.”

"As we passed through Rome recently I noticed that whenever we come back to Europe, we feel a certain distrust of Muslims. Unfortunately, there is a lot of ignorance in both communities ignorance that fuels mutual fear. Instead, we must reach out to each other to create bonds of friendship and through them, to form another image of the other," said the Bishop.

 

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French map of the Algerian
region of North Africa
"I’ve lived in Algeria since 1970 and I can say that I enjoy an atmosphere of sincere friendship that has allowed me to allay fears among the two communities. We have an excellent rapport with the local population that has lasted for decades. There is an Islamist tendency but quite marginal compared with the general population," says Bishop Rault.

Our Diocese and Our Ministry

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Bishop Claude Rault of
Laghouat, a White Father
The Diocese of Laghouat includes all of the Saharan Algeria, bordering Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Morocco, Libya and southern Tunisia. The territory of the diocese is also Tindouf, home for more than 150,000 Sahrawi refugees for some 30 years in camps." In Tindouf we manage two programs: one is for nutrition for women, especially those who have just given birth, and the other concerns the teaching of French. We were forced to stop for reasons internal the situation in the camps," recalls the Bishop.

“The Catholic community is made up of 100 to 150 people spread over an area of 2 million square kilometers, with a total population of 4 million inhabitants. "The Catholic presence,” said Bishop Rault, “is formed by small communities ranging from a small convent of three nuns (a religious community) with no more than thirty people. Our relationships are always based on the part of the Muslim world that welcomes us. Our religious, for example, mostly Algerian Muslim women, are engaged in a series of activities that support women doing sewing and embroidery activities for families with disabilities. Finally we help organizations create some nurseries."

"Religious manage a number of libraries: a large library of study Sahara frequented by researchers and two libraries lend books to students, which we also offer language support in English, French, Italian and Spanish" Bishop says Rault. "The figure of Blessed Charles de Foucauld is still present in the Sahara” continues the Bishop.

Wars and Tragedies

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Blessed Charles Foucauld (1858–1916)
a French priest, martyred (1916),
beatified by Pope Benedict XVI (2005)
Various contemplative communities of Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart and the Little Brothers of the Gospel live excellent relations with Algeria. "These communities were marked by the tragedy of September Tibhirine monks massacred in 1996. "It is not possible to separate the monks of Tibhirine tragedy of what happened in Algeria at that time," says Bishop Rault. [On the night of March 26-27, 1996, seven monks from the monastery Notre-Dame de l'Atlas of Tibhirine in Algeria, belonging to the Roman Catholic Trappist Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.), were kidnapped during the Algerian Civil War. They were held for two months, and were found dead on May 21, 1996. The circumstances of their kidnapping and death remain controversial; the Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique Armé, GIA) claimed responsibility for both, but the then French military attaché, retired General François Buchwalter, reported that they were accidentally killed by the Algerian army in a rescue attempt.]

"Algeria has suffered as a result of fratricidal war that lasted ten years. At this time, there were approximately 150,000 deaths. We cannot forget the dead when we speak of the monks of Tibhirine. We often forget that 93 Imams were also assassinated because they opposed violence along with about 70 journalists. Fortunately, we came out of this tragedy, and we must recognize that President Bouteflika has done much to stop the violence and restore real peace in the country," concluded the Bishop.

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The monastery of the monks of Tibhirine (left) and an Arabic Icon of those
assassinated; the movie, Of Gods and Men (2010) depicts this tragic event

Link: Christianity in Algeria

(Reprinted with permission of the Agenzia Fides 26/09/2012; material in brackets about the Tibhirine tragedy was added; original version of the Bishop’s original article in French