COVID-19 and twenty months of Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli’s slavery

The media focus on COVID-19 has relatively invaded our Sahel, too. In fact, most of the news comes to us through western news agencies that have made the pandemic outbreak a pan-news story. In the meantime, in this sandy area of the world during this hot, dry season, the events related to current life and jihadist terrorism have not stopped on their own. On the contrary, the great maneuvers to “neutralize” armed groups continued, as did the attacks. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced within their country. Meanwhile, the defense and security forces of the states involved in this battle have been accused of serious abuses against civilians. There are talks of mass graves in the area of the three borders: Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The happy and very (evil) mediated release of Silvia Romano has also brought back the expectation of another happy ending: that of the captivity of Father Pier Luigi and his companion in misfortune Nicola Ciacco, who appeared in the same video on March 24th, 2020. [1]

The ransom money, cash for lives, will help finance other attacks and the birth of other armed terrorist groups. It is the price to be paid to free Pier Luigi, my friend, brother and travel companion. On the evening of September 17, 2018, just after returning from family holidays, Pier Luigi was abducted with violence, uprooted like a tree, from his adopted land of Bomoanga, just over a hundred kilometers from the capital, Niamey. Even local authorities do not hide a moderate optimism about the possibilities of his and their return to us.

Gigi’s twenty months of captivity are a life, a broken life that continues, despite everything, to believe in life. The madness of violence, far from blind in this case, reveals his face masked by fanatical justifications that they took hostage time and the face of God. His face, at Golgotha, was a mask of blood and that of Pier Luigi, in the video quoted, was the tired and suffering face of those who know they are being held hostage by nameless criminals. Evil exists and is reproduced through those who yield to its perverse methods and its enticements of the dignity of the person who is not even lost in them. Pier Luigi brings with himself, along with others in similar situations of captivity, the mystery of human iniquity, the tragic face of lies and the fragile hope of a return home. Yes, is one of the most graphic metaphors of our time, and only the distant tolling of the Easter bells is the memory of a stone removed from the empty grave.

By Fr. Mauro Armanino, SMA. Niamey, May 16, 2020


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