Never a boring moment!

Never a boring moment!

Michel Meunier, MAfr

“Be apostles, nothing but apostles!”, or at least, be nothing else, except with this in view …, try to think, to speak and to write as apostles. Missionaries must never forget that they are neither explorers, nor, nor tourists, nor scientists, nor anything else. “(Cardinal Charles Lavigerie, founder of the Missionaries of Africa – White Fathers and White Sisters).”

Nevertheless, in this book you will find out that the missionary adventure sometimes leads us unwittingly to be explorers, travellers and occasional tourists, because of unexpected events and circumstances. Cardinal Lavigerie often quoted Terence, a 2nd century freed slave poet of North African origin: “I am a human being, and nothing human is foreign to me.” Indeed, our founder asked us to always start from the human dimension; this is what you will find in these stories and anecdotes.


Michel Meunier was born in 1944 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, province of Quebec, Canada. In 1969, he took his missionary oath with the Society of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) and was ordained a priest on May 23, 1970. In September of the same year, he left for Africa.

He now lives in Montreal.

There is a Kindle e-version of the book, but, according to Michel, the layout is not perfect. So he instructed me to make it available for free to the confreres because of the high costs of postage from Canada to Europe and to Africa.  Thank you to Michel Meunier.

Jésus, l’Homme de la rencontre

Jésus, l'Homme de la rencontre :

Huit jours à l'école du Maître dans l'évangile de Jean

P. Claude Rault, M.Afr.

Bishop Claude Rault, born in Normandy in 1940, is a priest of the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers). After studying Arabic and Islamology at the PISAI in Rome, he was sent to Algeria. He lived for almost 50 years in the Sahara, working as a teacher and with a copperplate craftsman in Ghardaïa. Vicar General and then Bishop from 2004 to 2017 of this immense territory, he visited the small dispersed Christian communities and wove solid and fraternal relationships with many Muslims. Currently, he is a member of the French National Service for Relations with Muslims as an expert.

In his book, Claude Rault meditates on Mission in the Gospel according to Saint John: a Gospel in which the word “evangelise” appears only once, but in which the mission of Jesus takes place in each encounter.

P. Claude RAULT
Maison des Missionnaires d’Afrique (Pères Blancs)
31 Rue Friant
75014 – Paris


Le prix est de 19 € + 5 € de frais de port, soit 24 €.

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Unique Amour en Toi, Unique Amour en Tous

Unique Amour en Toi, Unique Amour en Tous

Père Jacques Cusset, M.Afr.

There was “L’Amour au cœur du monde” in the 1990s, a purely autobiographical and youthful story! Then there was “Les chants de l’Amour”, a biblical presentation for current times, with the experience of catechesis in several parishes in France or elsewhere, at the school of Saint Augustine, because “To sing is to pray twice”. But someone said to me: “You should make a synthesis!” This is what I propose in this new presentation of my experience of fifty years of missionary life in the four corners of the world: Algeria, France, family, England, Canada, and the Middle East from 1967 to 2020! It is true that by alternating stories and songs, in the simplest possible language, it makes the overall testimony more alive!

This leads to a lively and simple inter-religious dialogue. That is what is important to me! From prayer to daily life, from the summits of Djurdjura in Greater Kabylia to a chemistry laboratory in Algiers, from an inter-religious meeting in a parish in the heart of a popular district in Bordeaux or in Montreuil-sous-Bois, what counts is the dialogue of life, and the Spirit who animates this dialogue.

ISBN : 978-2-36452-577-1
format 160 x 240 300 pages
Novembre 2020
prix public TTC 20 €

Contact Father Jacques Cusset
7 rue du Moulin
95260 Mours
+33 6 70 49 95 32

Meeting the Muslims: the contribution of the White Fathers

Meeting the Muslims: the contribution of the White Fathers

The Society of Missionaries of Africa has promoted a renewal of the Christian approach to Islam

 Rémi Caucanas

Rémi Caucanas est chercheur associé à l’Institut de Recherches et d’Études sur le Monde Arabo-Musulman (IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence) et au Pontificio Istituto di Studi Arabi e d’Islamistica (PISAI, Rome). Il enseigne également au Tangaza University College (TUC, Nairobi). Ancien directeur de l’Institut Catholique de la Méditerranée (ICM, Marseille), Rémi Caucanas a un doctorat en Histoire.

The journeys of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi (February 2019) and Rabat (March 2019) cannot but challenge us on the historical depth of the relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam. Now if the Argentinean pope inscribed his journey in the footsteps of Saint Francis, commemorating the 800th anniversary of his meeting with Sultan Ayyûbide in Damietta in 1219, another anniversary deserves our attention: the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, whose work and history have contributed to a complete renewal of the Christian approach to Islam and Muslims.

Founded one hundred and fifty years ago by the Archbishop of Algiers, Mgr Charles Lavigerie (1825-1892), created Cardinal in 1882 and “Primate of Africa” in 1884, the Society has been one of the great cogs of modern evangelisation of the African continent. If the destiny of this missionary work thus extends beyond the Maghreb alone, the relationship with Islam and the Muslims of North Africa has nevertheless remained one of its foundations since its creation in 1868-9 and remains the focal point of our subject, namely the relationship of the White Fathers to Islam (1).

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Africana: Botswana’s Good Governance

Good governance

Botswana’s recent history is explained in the awareness of national identity, the rejection of the colonisers’ racial discrimination and the struggle for independence. But the struggle for independence is strengthened by appropriate economic and educational policies.

Three main factors help to understand Botswana’s recent history: the independence, the economy and the social policy.

The optimism of independence

The independence struggle of the Batswanas has its founding father in Seretse Khama. In 1944, Seretse Khama, who was heir to King Khama Il of the Tswana ethnic group, which is the majority in the country, went to Oxford to study law where he married Ruth Williams, an English clerk. The wedding scandalized the English and Afrikaners, who were already imposing racial separation (apartheid), and got the English government to prohibit Seretse from returning to his land, but he resisted pressure and with the massive support of his people, maintained his leadership and returned in 1956. Nine years later, in the first general election, the party he founded, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), won 80% of the vote and Seretse was elected Botswana’s first President.

Aerial view of the channels of the Okavango delta

The new government decided to join the countries fighting against apartheid in South Africa and to join the South African Development Community (SADC), whose aim was to break the economic dependence of the nine black southern African countries on South Africa.

The economy

At the beginning of the 20th century, 97% of Batswanas lived in the countryside and each family owned at least a couple of cows and the richest had oxen to plow the land. Afrikaners dominated agriculture and controlled 60% of meat exports. In 1966, the year of independence, the urban population reached 15% and almost 40% of the rural inhabitants had no livestock. Botswana was one of the poorest countries in Africa, with a GDP of $70. But in 1971, Botswana was lucky enough to discover the diamond mines of Orapa (in the East). This unexpected wealth produced huge foreign exchange reserves and made its currency the strongest in Africa. Between 1978 and 1988, Botswana became the world’s third largest producer of diamonds, after Australia and the DR of Congo, and the world’s second largest exporter of diamonds, after Russia. The country’s economy grew at a record rate of 12% per year. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in 2016 this country had a per capita income of 16,947 dollars, one of the highest in Africa and a GDP of 14,443 million dollars. However, three fifths of the population live on subsistence crops or “non-institutional” activities, with unemployment at 20%. Although Botswana’s history highlights good governance and economic growth supported by prudent macroeconomic management and fiscal balance, the country’s high levels of poverty are evident, even though President Seretse pursued a conciliatory policy with people of European origin who managed 80% of the economy and promoted livestock in a country with a vast semi-desert region, making Botswana one of Southern Africa’s main exporters of livestock and meat.

The diamond is the main source of income in the country

His successor, Vice President Ketumile Masire (1980-1998) came under strong pressure from revolutionary socialist groups to limit the concentration of fertile land in European hands and increase the area allocated to cooperatives. The peasants accused the big landowners of raising too much cattle on poor land which, in the short term, would become useless for farming. In addition, a movement emerged in favour of the nationalisation of the diamond, copper and nickel mines exploited by South African companies.

To make matters worse, Masire had to face the economic problem arising from the decline in international demand for diamonds. In 1991, the country suffered the biggest strikes since independence; public workers demanded a 154 per cent wage increase and 18,000 civil servants were laid off; in 1992, unemployment reached 25 per cent. To reduce unemployment, the government encouraged the installation of non-mining industries, but a severe drought forced the authorities to drastically reduce public spending and reduce more than a third of the labour force employed directly or indirectly by the state. After a strike in August 2004, about a thousand workers of the diamond company Debswana Diamond Company were laid off. Debswana is the largest diamond mining company operating in Botswana, 50% state-owned, providing approximately 40% of its revenues.

Outdoor diamond mining in ORAPA

In May 2006, a highly contagious outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) was detected in the southeastern part of the country, the area of highest beef production. Due to the closure of exports and slaughterhouses, losses exceeded several million dollars and threatened the survival of the meat industry.

Festus Mogae (1999-2008), successor to President Masire, opted for economic liberalization and development, making Botswana one of the most stable countries on the continent.

In 2009, the BDP won the elections again and its leader, lan Khama (son of Seretse), was elected President of Botswana; in April 2018 he resigned and was replaced by Mokgweetsi Masisi, the current President. lan Khama faced opposition parties and a difficult socio-economic reality, with growing unemployment, lack of technical training of young people, absence of entrepreneurial initiatives, need to improve educational and health care (it is public, but difficult to access because of the huge distances).

In 1996, mineral exports represented 47% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. In 2007, when significant quantities of uranium were discovered, several international mining corporations established regional headquarters in Botswana, given the increased production of diamonds, gold, uranium, copper and even oil. In 2009, the government announced that it would try to change its economic dependence on diamonds, in the face of serious concerns that diamonds will run out in the next 20 years. To this end, he developed a tourism policy based on the country’s rich flora and fauna, making tourism the second source of income.

The inhospitable desert of Rub Al Jali Kalahari

Social policy.

One of the policies of successive Botswana governments has been to promote social welfare. Between the 1980s and 1990s, the government implemented social policies against poverty and increased access to education and health care, so that between 1986 and 2003, the percentage of Batswanas living in poverty fell from 59% to 30.6%, according to World Bank data.

The high investment in education, 10% of GDP, has managed to conquer levels of almost total and free education, 90% according to UNICEF, while in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa it barely reaches 60%. There have been notable improvements in the health sector with a significant decrease in child mortality. But Botswana’s drama is AIDS, it is the country with the highest percentage of AIDS sufferers in the world, a prevalence of 21.4% among 15-49 year olds, according to the World Health Organization. The positive thing is that, according to this organization, more than 95% of those affected can access antiretroviral therapy for cases with advanced infection.

The Okavango is a river whose delta ends in the desert

However, the Botswanan government was not so successful when in 1995, having discovered important diamond mines in the Kalahari desert, land of the Bushmen for 30,000 years, it decided to launch a campaign of harassment to expel the Bushmen living in the Central Kalahari Reserve and move them to ‘resettlement camps.

The government, depriving them of water and food, managed to relocate the last contingent of 2,200 Bushmen. According to Botswana law, mining activities and minerals extraction are not subject to the claims of indigenous communities, even if they are residents of those areas. But the Bushmen sued the government and in May 2006 the Botswana High Court ruled in favour of the Bushman people, ruling that exile and subsequent relocation had been “unconstitutional and illegal” and setting the authorities and their attempt to extract diamonds from these lands backwards. By then, more than 10% of the plaintiffs had died in the relocation camps.

Magazine Africana of the Sector of Spain n° 197 of June 2019

Africana: History of a stable country

History of a stable story

In just a few years, Botswana has become the most stable and thriving country on the African continent. Botswana represents, according to the World Bank, “one of the true successes of economic and human development in Africa”. Its history also takes us back to the beginnings of human habitation on the African continent.

Since several African nations gained their independence in the 1960s, Africa has undergone major transformations, moving from the independence euphoria and pessimism of the 1970s and 1980s to the optimism of the 1990s that has led some media to speak of “Afro-realism”. We have moved from headlines such as “Africa, the hopeless continent” to “Africa emerges, the hopeful continent”.

The problems are not over, but the hopes have been increasing so that more than one country has managed to advance for the good of the population in general. One such country is Botswana.

Upon independence from the United Kingdom in September 1966, Botswana’s future was not very promising; five decades later, it is considered one of the most stable and thriving countries on the African continent. Botswana is the only African country that has not suffered any coup d’état, maintaining exemplary stability. In its 2017 report, the World Bank ranked Botswana among the 16 countries with the greatest political stability and absence of violence in the world and the first among the African people.

Gaborone, Capital City of Botswana

For the United Nations, Botswana is “one of the true successes of Africa’s economic and human development”. Greg Mills of the Brenthurst Foundation, an independent South African economic research group, says that Botswana’s transformation is “the result of a long-term vision, political stability and prudent governments”. Situated in southern Africa, the Republic of Botswana is bordered to the north by Zambia and Angola, to the south by South Africa, to the east by Zimbabwe and to the west by Namibia. Its area is as large as that of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), with a population of 2,370,000 inhabitants since the Kalahari desert occupies 70% of the territory (with only 4% of the remaining area suitable for agriculture). In the north are the marshy basins of the rivers Makgarikgari and Okavango that irrigate a large expanse of savannas, where livestock and agriculture are the main economic activities. Although English is the official language, Setsuana, Cannabis, San (Bushman), Khoi-khoi (Hotentote) and Ndebele are spoken. Its inhabitants are mostly Christians (76%), of which 6% are Catholics; 20% are faithful to the traditional religion and the rest are minorities Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims.

The Bushmen of today are descendants of the first inhabitants of the country.

At the origin of the first African peoples
To get to know Botswana you have to delve into its past, a past that goes back millennia, to the dawn of humanity, when man took his first steps through the savannas of southern and eastern Africa. These peoples inhabited the great plains, moving with the seasons through meadows and mountains through the great wetlands that covered the north of Botswana. Thirty thousand years ago, the Bushmen, the main hominid group in southern Africa, evolved into an organized society of hunter-gatherers; anthropologists believe they are the ancestors of today’s Bushmen living in Botswana. With the Neolithic, some of these peoples adopted a pastoral lifestyle, sowing and grazing cattle on the banks of the Okavango River. Some migrated west to central Namibia, and in 70 B.C., others reached the Cape of Good Hope.

Between 200 and 500, the Bantu came to these lands from the north and east of the continent. One of the first and most powerful groups to inhabit this region was the Sotho-Tswana, formed by three peoples: the northern Basotho who settled in South Africa; the southern Basotho who settled in Leshoto; and the western Basotho who occupied what is now Botswana. By the year 600, groups of nomadic herders began to arrive from Zimbabwe; in the 13th century almost all of eastern Botswana was under the influence of Great Zimbabwe, one of Africa’s most legendary ancient kingdoms. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, Great Zimbabwe absorbed many tribal territories in northeastern Botswana; several hundred years later, the region was part of the Monomatapa kingdom that succeeded that of Great Zimbabwe.

Mokgweetsi-Masisi, president and first lady of Botswana.

European colonisation

From the 18th century onwards, the British, Dutch and Portuguese arrived. The British tried to unite the continent from South Africa to Egypt and the Portuguese wanted to unite their colonies of Angola and Mozambique through Botswana. The fact is that this region became a real crossroads between the different strategic colonial interests, and between these and the Tswana tribes. In 1840, came the Boers or Afrikaners who were Dutch settlers fleeing the English established in Cape Town.

The Boers, who were farmers, disputed the scarce fertile lands to the Tswanas, provoking conflicts between them and the Zulu whom the white settlers had expelled from southern Africa. 

Many Tswana began working on the Boers’ farms, but it was an uncomfortable association plagued with revolt and violence. In 1895, three tribal Tswana kings went to London seeking support against the Boers and against German expansion from Namibia.

Botswana became a British protectorate under the name Bechuanaland, but the Tswana kings had to grant, in exchange for protection, that the British Company of South Africa build a railway between their lands and Zimbabwe. British tutelage prevented these lands from being absorbed by South Africa, but facilitated economic domination by the Boers. Great Britain colonised Botswana until, giving in to the nationalist movement, which began in the 1950s, it granted independence on 30 September 1966.

Magazine Africana from the Sector of Spain, n° 197 of June 2019

Africana : Botswana, l’exception africaine

Botswana, the African exception

The title of this issue of Africana “Botswana, the African exception” does not attempt to camouflage the shortcomings of this country, interesting in many respects, but in need, like many others, of healing reforms. It is only intended to underline its particularity in its most positive aspects, which are many.

Botswana distinguishes itself from other African countries by the good state of its economy. When it became independent from the United Kingdom in 1966, Botswana was a poor country, a desert for the most part of its territory; a country with no great future. However, in 2016, fifty years later, Botswana had become one of the most prosperous countries in the world, with a per capita income of $16,947, mainly due to its diamond exports. Botswana is, after Russia, the second largest exporter of this precious stone, although its production in gold, uranium, copper and even oil is not negligible. One of Botswana’s economic successes was its ability to diversify its sources of income, also favouring other sectors, such as livestock and tourism. We must not forget that Botswana has one of the richest wildlife sanctuaries on the planet, an exuberant flora and fauna, a river, the Okavango, 1,000 kilometers long, which flows into the Kalahari desert, creating a beautiful delta in its region. Thanks to its diversified diamond, tourism and beef policies, Botswana has become one of Southern Africa’s leading livestock and meat exporters.

For the United Nations, Botswana is “one of the true successes of Africa’s economic and human development.” Greg Mills of the Brenthurst Foundation, an independent South African economic research group, says Botswana’s transformation is “the result of long-term vision, political stability and prudent governance.”

Botswana comfortably passes the examination of a country with acceptable governance. But not everything is perfect. The author of the report, Father Juan Manuel Pérez Charlin, warns us, with good judgment, that there are voices of discontent towards the authoritarian policies of the Government and customs of nepotism, discrimination and exclusions that go against the equality of rights of all citizens.

A policy based solely on economic criteria leads to forgetting – as has already happened and is still happening with the Bushmen – the most fundamental rights of the individual and of people. Botswana is the African exception, but it seems that there is room for improvement.

Magazine AFRICANA of  the  sector of Spain – June 2019 – N° 197

Being a civilian prisoner at the Garaison camp (Mini-lien nr. 476)

During the First World War, France considered the Germans, the Austro-Hungarians, the Ottomans, the Bulgarians present on its soil as enemies: they were concentrated in camps, including that of Garaison (Hautes-Pyrénées), installed in the former convent and school establishment of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception.

Continue reading “Being a civilian prisoner at the Garaison camp (Mini-lien nr. 476)”

It was a long loyalty…

The book about our confreres in Tizi-Ouzou has just been published. Even if we still do not know when the Beatification will be celebrated, let us not wait to rejoice and invoke these blessed ones.

In his Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness, Pope Francis writes: “Persecution is not a reality of the past, because today, too, we suffer it, whether in a bloody way, like so many contemporary martyrs, or in a more subtle way, through calumnies and lies… To accept every day the way of the Gospel even if it creates problems for us, that is holiness! ” nr. 94

Pope Francis was very sensitive to the martyrdom of the 19 brothers and sisters of Algeria who offered their lives. Was it relentlessness to want to stay until the end? The question may arise and should not be avoided. Well, then, why? How? Who can testify to that? Any reader can forge an answer for himself when reading this book.

Our four confreres from Tizi-Ouzou were killed in the presence of people who loved them. They welcomed them, they worked with them, they comforted them. They led a life of community, prayer, sharing and solidarity.

This book sheds light on several aspects: it is a speech that is not afraid to tell the truth. It is a testimony that shows how far fidelity can lead, a total commitment in a Muslim environment. It is a missionary journey for the 21st century. And what is more, it can be read by a wide Catholic and Muslim audience. “It was a long loyalty…” Other aspects emerge. This is the first time that confreres are beatified in our Missionary Society but they are not isolated. On the one hand, they are in line with the 61 White Fathers and Sisters who have dedicated their lives to Africa by offering it up to the total gift. On the other hand, they are in communion with a whole people, not only with the 19 religious men and women, but with all those, Muslims and non-Muslims, who have experienced the same violence, the same suffering, the same tears.

These beatifications can give rise to three others for us. In recent times, with our confrere Terry Madden from Great Britain, we have found ourselves in the region of Father Lourdel’s native country. Young Ugandans dream of seeing one of the founders of their church beatified. After the disappearance of all these victims in Algeria, many ask themselves the question of the beatification of Cardinal Duval. And then very recently we received an ‘inquiry’ which raises the question of the beatification of Cardinal Lavigerie and asks what we think about it.

I’m not asking you what you think, but I would like to ask you, simply, if you are happy when you think of them, when you remember them? That is enough for me, because that is the meaning of beatification: knowing how to make people happy.

Thank you Father Armand Duval for writing this book. Your niece told us that you had already re-read the re-edition in Saint Malo. We hope that the young confreres will take the time to read it and make it their reference book in formation houses.

Bernard Lefebvre, M.Afr.
(written in the Mini-lien nr 475)

C’était une longue fidélité

Auteur : Père Armand Duval, M.Afr
ISBN 978-2-7122-1501-9
Editions Médiaspaul juin 2018 16 euros

In this book, Father Armand Duval introduces us into the lives of the four White Fathers missionaries who, in solidarity with the Algerian people, gave their lives in 1994 and were recognized as blessed by Pope Francis along with 15 other religious men and women of the Church of Algeria.

Why remain faithful to a people that is not his when peril is omnipresent and hope to act on man so tenuous? Because “it was a long loyalty”.

Through this homage, the author gives us “a teaching on mission”. The Gospel flame that animates these witnesses of God’s love beckons us where we live, and as Saint Augustine says, “every man as man has the right to be loved”.

Armand Duval, White Father – Missionary of Africa, was a missionary in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as in Mexico. He has long lived in North Africa, Jerusalem, Spain, and collaborated with “Peuples du monde” and “Africana”.

Interview Rémi Caucanas

Etienne Renaud, La passion du dialogue from Diocèse de Marseille on Vimeo.

On the occasion of his visit to Marseille on May 18, 2018, Rémi Caucanas, former director of the Catholic Institute of the Mediterranean, presents his book on the life of Étienne Renaud: “The passion for dialogue”. White Father, Etienne Renaud (1936-2013) dedicated his life to the meeting with Islam and Muslims. Secondly, Rémi Caucanas shares his vision of East Africa.

Rémi gave a conference last year at the Generalate in Rome on « Lavigerie au prisme de trois Pères Blancs » (of whom Etienne Renaud). You can listen again to the conference here (in French of course).

You can also buy his latest book ETIENNE RENAUD, LA PASSION DU DIALOGUE at the  Association Chemins de dialogue (11 impasse Flammarion, 13001 Marseille – 04 91 50 35 50) or on the online shop:

Or even on