Algeria: Christians given to the Church (KTO)

Algeria: Christians given to the Church

A programme of KTO TV (French Catholic TV)

Twenty-five years ago, the monks of Tibhirine were murdered for having chosen to stand by the Algerian people during the “black decade”, the wave of Islamist terrorism that devastated Algeria in the 1990s and claimed between 100,000 and 200,000 victims. To remember the Christians who have given to the Church in Algeria, from yesterday to today, we have the joy of receiving Mgr Claude Rault, Bishop Emeritus of Laghouat-Ghardaïa.

Tizi-Ouzou : Ten attitudes for living fraternity (Relais Maghreb nr 38)

Tizi-Ouzou : Ten attitudes for living fraternity

Father Benoît Mwananyembo

This could be a challenge for our own communities, or at least make us reflect on our community life! (Editor’s note)

This year of fraternity has been a favourable year for deepening our way of living fraternity concretely. On 21 November and 28 November 2020, the parishioners of Tizi-Ouzou met in small groups and made proposals for the development of the parish. The parish animation committee identified 10 attitudes, i.e. 10 good behaviours that will favour fraternity in the parish:

    1. Take advantage of the places of fraternity that the parish project offers us: Mass, adoration, prayer group, catechesis, meals, training, recollection, outings, pilgrimage…
    2. To develop communication and trust, and to feel responsible for the development of the parish.
    3. To improve our behavior so as not to hurt others.
    4. To be concerned about visiting each other, especially in difficult times.
    5. To take news of the brothers and sisters who no longer come for one reason or another.
    6. The parish should continue to be a place where everyone is welcomed.
    7. Knowing each other’s birthdays in advance so that we can better celebrate them.
    8. We must continue to create bonds of friendship between the different groups that make up the
      parish. These groups are : Algerians, foreign students, other foreigners, the Sisters and the Fathers.
    9. It is good to live the fraternity in the parish as well as outside the parish with
      Christians as well as with those who are not Christians.
    10. We must encourage and imitate those who live fraternity well.

We are almighty…

From the department of JPIC-ED of Maghreb, we have received this paper written by Brother Patrick Leboulenger on a reflection at the crossroad of the Season of Creation,  the Pandemic of Covid-19 and the Mystery of Easter.  The original is in the French language. This translation, without pretention, is offered by

We are almighty...

Arabia builds a 1000m high tower. The ship “Symphony of the seas” carries 8880 people. The Antonov An-225, nicknamed Mriya, is an aircraft, which loaded can weigh 600 tons and carry 50 cars. Compared to this, the Tower of Babel is nothing.

But for some time now voices are being heard. They remind us that we live on a small planet, that resources are limited, that we are wasting too much, that the climate is getting warmer and warmer, that we are mortgaging the living conditions of the next generation. But we are so sure of ourselves and of our control over nature. If drinking water is decreasing, no big deal, we install purifiers. Finally, whatever happens, we will always find solutions. That’s why we have scientists.

Yet, a few years ago, there was a first epidemic, “AIDS”, which could not be curbed, with a mortality rate close to 100%. Although it forced humans to change certain behaviours, humanity quickly learned to live with it. And we gradually resumed our race for power and our usual ways of slaughtering and exploiting each other, not without a little humanitarianism so as not to look too much like animals. However, scientists and doctors had warned us. We are not ready to put up with an epidemic. We should stop this frantic race, change our conception of nature and the planet and re-think our economic models. But they were shouting in the desert because nobody was prepared to hear them.

Nothing will be changed to protect the global economy. That is, for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. And since it is the rich who decide, the system is fine as it is. People continued to organise seminars and retreats for a few days with participants from all over the world. The most amusing are these large gatherings to think about ways to fight global warming while they themselves are sources of global warming through the displacement they cause. All these gatherings are absolutely necessary, they cannot be questioned. Video-conferences are not practical. Raw materiaI coming from Africa is transported to China for the production of devices that will be bought in Europe and then resold in Africa. This is globalisation, the big word of the last few decades. Challenging this globalisation classifies you as marginal or utopian.

And here we are against the wall, with a small virus (it is not even a living being) that is disrupting our “power”. The doctors are overwhelmed. We don’t really have any medicine and no vaccine. The most vulnerable among us end up dying. The virus crosses borders and everyone becomes infected, from the tramp in the street to the head of state, a Chinese, an Iranian, an Italian…. Here we are as our ancestors victims of the plagues in the Middle Ages. The words “quarantine”, “isolation” are back, cities and states are closing their borders. The police and the army control the roads. We start praying for healing. Just as a thousand years ago we are searching for the cause of this disease, we are looking for the propagators of evil. We wonder about the origin of the plague: natural, human, curse from heaven? We take out the masks to protect ourselves. In the Middle Ages, masks with a long nose were used to prevent the miasmas from reaching the doctors. It is not a question of finding this useless or ridiculous. On the contrary, they are our only tools that allow us to limit the progression of the disease. We have not changed since the Middle Ages. This brings us face to face with our fragility. Perhaps the difference is that people in the Middle Ages knew they were vulnerable to nature. We thought we were mastering nature.

In just a few months, we were forced to stop the competition. What men never wanted to do, a virus did it: all the travelling, all the important and fundamental meetings for the life of the Church and of humanity were gone. The trade fairs that are absolutely necessary for the economy were cancelled. Distance working, video conferences have now become the standart. States are rethinking globalisation by considering more proximity between producers and consumers. Local trade is becoming possible. The diminution of travelling in favour of teleconferencing is becoming economically profitable. We thought that human relations could all happen through Internet. Confinement showed us that we still need contact between people made of flesh and bone. The Italians showed us a very good example of this by gathering at the window of their flats every evening. We have to expect serious consequences for the world economy. Both the nations and the economically vulnerable people will be severely and long-lastingly affected. It used to be impossible to do without air transport, a major source of pollution. The bankruptcies of several companies will force us to do so.

A long time ago someone spoke of us as hard-headed people (Ex 32:9 Dt 9:6 9:13). Perhaps we will finally hear the call to change. And if we were to dream just a little, we could imagine a humanity where there is more sharing, more solidarity, more mutual help. Let us imagine that nations start working together to fight against the virus and other similar scourges like malaria. Let us imagine that we would give up all this wastage in order to preserve nature for our own health and for future generations. Let’s imagine that we decided to live in relationships with our real neighbours and not with virtual friends on Websat. In a word, let us imagine that we start living the Gospel. Then we could begin to say to ourselves that the evil that affects us has not made us suffer and that the dead did not die in vain.

Often for Lent, we commit ourselves to small efforts that are more or less within our reach, some small changes in our daily life. This year, our Lent was a little more radical. The events imposed constraints on us. The expectation of the Resurrection and of new life at Easter took on a very real meaning for many people. We are told that a Christian cannot live alone, now he is locked up alone, sometimes anguished by the presence of this virus, and fragile before his God. He cannot avoid anymore this face-to-face encounter with himself and with God. Some people enjoyed a family or a community. But promiscuity in a flat, the little idiosyncrasies of a confrere or a sister, the cries of the children work their wear and tear with the passage of time. It is in spite of and with all this that we were invited to look towards Easter, the passage to freedom which for many Christians may not necessarily have occured on April 11th this year. The liberation brought about by the resurrection and conversion imposed on us were very concrete this year. Everyone’s faith is stripped bare of its certainties. It is no longer ” Do you believe in the resurrected Jesus as an impersonal community? But rather “Do you personally believe in the Risen Jesus? ” And If you do, then draw the consequences.

Father Raphaël Deillon: “Muslims, you have to love them first.”

Father Raphaël Deillon: "Muslims, you have to love them first."

This article was published by on 28 June 2020. Please visit the original publication here.


“Muslims must first be loved,” Father Raphael Deillon told The White Father, who celebrated the jubilee of 50 years of his missionary commitment on 27 June 2020, lived 25 years in Algeria. A specialist in Islam, he has always defended a culture of encounter and dialogue.

On Saturday 27 June 2020, the Africanum, the headquarters of the Missionaries of Africa in Switzerland, at 57 Route de la Vignettaz in Fribourg, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “missionary oath” or priestly ordination of three Swiss White Fathers: Fathers Raphaël Deillon and Claude Maillard, as well as Brother Karl Kaelin.

Although born in Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, in Haute-Savoie, Raphaël Deillon is originally from Siviriez, the village of Saint Marguerite Bays. In 2009, he was appointed postulator of the cause of “Goton de la Pierraz”, in order to defend the canonization file that the bishopric of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg had to submit to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. “They had also chosen me because I was at that time in Rome as assistant to the General Council of the Society of Missionaries of Africa”.

I took a taste of their culture

But the curriculum vitae of Raphaël Deillon, who in his childhood had known peasant life – his father was a cowherd on the estate of the Count of Viry, near Geneva – was to take a singular turn when he met the families of North African workers living near the seminary of Annecy, where he had entered. “They were living in barracks, a poor place where no one dared to go. We were going to visit them, drink with them the mint tea that smelled so good. I got a taste of their culture…”

An advertisement in the newspaper La Croix

At the seminary, everyone went to military service except him, who was Swiss. “I had read an advertisement in the newspaper La Croix: ‘Seeking boarding school teacher for a vocational training centre in Ouargla in the Sahara’. So in 1965, at the age of 22, I left for a year in Ouargla, in the Sahara, 800 km south of Algiers. I was a boarding school teacher in a vocational school, where most of the pupils came from the surrounding oases. I loved the place and the people so much that one day, I will always remember it, I was under a lemon tree and I said to myself: ‘I will come back, there is something good to live between Christians and Muslims. Back at the seminary in Annecy, Raphael was contacted by Fr. Jean-Pierre Sauge, who was in charge of missionary animation for the White Fathers. He will make his novitiate at Gap, in the Hautes-Alpes.

The die was cast: he would commit himself to the Missionaries of Africa, with the intention of returning to Algeria after his ordination to the priesthood at Viry in 1970. He learned Arabic dialect at El Bayadh, a village 400 km south of Oran, by visiting Algerian families, then from 1971, for two years, literary Arabic at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic Studies and Islamology (PISAI) in Rome. Then, also after two years of study, he obtained a degree in English in Strasbourg, before returning for three years to El Bayadh, where he taught English. In 1980, he left for Sanaa, North Yemen, also to teach Shakespeare’s language in an American institute to civil servants who wanted to study abroad. On his return to Lyon, he spent two years there in missionary animation before being appointed English teacher in 1983 in Ghardaïa, 600 km south of Algiers.

In Ghardaïa, during the dark years

Father Deillon was to experience, in the 1990s, the “black decade” of the civil war between the Algerian government and its National Popular Army (ANP), and various armed Islamist groups with Salafist Jihadist tendencies, notably the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). This bloody episode caused more than 150’000 deaths, mainly Algerian Muslims.

It will be strongly shaken by the assassination, on 27 December 1994, of four colleagues, massacred by armed men in the courtyard of their house in Tizi Ouzou. But comforted by the presence of many Muslim friends at their burial.

Weird Magi’s in arms invite themselves to the Feast of Epiphany

A few days later, on Sunday, January 8, 1995, Feast of the Epiphany, “strange magi in arms visited us in our house in Ghardaïa…” Four unknown men armed with machine guns tried to break down the door, while the religious and his confrere, accompanied by two Beninese friends who had come to Mass, were able to flee through the rooftops, on a withdrawal route prepared in case of attacks. At that time, several men and women religious had already been murdered, and there was strong pressure for all foreigners to leave the country.

During this period, the very small Catholic Church in Algeria counted 19 martyrs, murdered between 1994 and 1996, among them Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran and the seven monks of Tibhirine. They were recognised as martyrs by Pope Francis on 26 January 2018, leading to their beatification on 8 December of the same year in Algeria.

Raphaël Deillon, who did not want to leave the country during the bloody civil war, willingly took up a sentence of a nun he knew, Sister Odette Prévost: “the first thing in dialogue with Muslims is to love them”. She also said: “Between prudence and the Gospel, I choose the Gospel!” The 63-year-old French nun of the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Charles de Foucauld was murdered on November 10, 1995 in Algiers.

“In spite of these ‘dark years’, I can say that having spent a quarter of a century in the Sahara, I have realized my dream: that of an Islamic-Christian encounter. I have lived wonderful years of friendship with the teachers, students and families of the students where I taught: Ouargla, El Bayadh, Ghardaïa. At the age of 22, when I was under the lemon tree, I was right: it is possible to dialogue between Christians and Muslims, provided that we respect the other who is different from us, that we do not go into the figure of the Bible and the Koran, that we do not clash over different articles of faith in the one and the other, that we do not generalize from extreme cases, that we know how to appreciate in the other what is good. “And above all, to love him!” (

Origins of Our Lady of Africa

Origins of Our Lady of Africa

It is a tradition in Rome that the community of the Generalate celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Africa on April 30th with the White Sisters who prepare a good meal for the occasion.  This year, unfortunately – confinement obliges – the White Fathers have resigned themselves to celebrate in the Generalate chapel without the White Sisters… Father Patient Bahati, Congolese by birth but Algerian by mission, presided over the Eucharist, during which he told us the story of Our Lady of Africa. We reproduce his talk here, convinced that many of you will read it with great interest.

The history of Our Lady of Africa began in 1846 with an act of fervour by two women, Anne Cinquin and Agarite Berger, who worked, one in the linen room and the other in the infirmary, at the minor seminary in Algiers. They had placed a statue of the Virgin in the hollow of a tree (rose hip) to recite their rosary. Other people joined them and the place ended up being the place where one comes to recite one’s rosary. That is why, in 1853, Bishop Pavy, the second bishop of Algiers, decided to build a grotto in which he placed a statue of the Virgin called “Our Lady of the Ravine”, also called “Star of the Sea”.

Having become a great place of prayer and pilgrimage, Bishop Pavy decided to build a church there, inspired by the recent definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX in 1854.

In 1855, informed that Bishop Pavy wanted to build a Marian shrine in Algiers, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Lyon expressed their desire to see the statue of the “Faithful Virgin” (which they had offered to his predecessor, Bishop Dupuch, 1st Bishop of Algiers) honoured in this shrine.

In 1856, Monsignor Pavy, after consulting his council, changed the name of the statue “Faithful Virgin” to “Our Lady of Africa”: a bronze statue which, once dressed, the face and hands appeared black. Hence the name “The Black Madonna.”

In 1858, work began on the church. In 1866, Bishop Pavy died and his successor, Bishop Lavigerie continued the work which he completed in 1872.

In fact, Mgr Pavy had planned to found a congregation of priests in charge of pilgrimage at Notre-Dame d’Afrique, the Augustinian Canons. At his death, Lavigerie could not carry out such a project since he already had the plan to found the Society of Missionaries of Africa and the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. He then called upon the communauté́ of the Prémontrés de la stricte observance of Saint-Michel de Frigolet, dedicated to prayer and ministry, on January 31, 1868, to take care of the Prayer in the church and to complete the finishing work on the church.

In 1873, Lavigerie entrusted the running of this new church to his two congregations: Missionaries of Africa and Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. Notre Dame d’Afrique became the cradle of these two congregations founded in 1868 and 1869 respectively.

On April 30, 1876, Pius IX, in the same graces of the Immaculate Conception, granted Lavigerie to crown the statue of Our Lady of Africa, and the church became a basilica: the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa. Our Lady of Africa thus radiates graces from the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the two congregations founded by Lavigerie.

In September 1897, the running of the Basilica was entrusted to the diocesan clergy of Algiers. Our Lady of Africa, in 1930, was once again entrusted to the White Fathers. 

From the outset, Lavigerie, had chosen Our Lady of Africa as the appropriate place for the extraordinary ceremonies deemed necessary for the blossoming of religious sentiment among the Algerians. These ceremonies were carefully prepared down to the last detail.

In 1930, the faithful arrived not only from all corners of Algeria, but also from France and elsewhere, climbing the hill barefoot, reciting the rosary aloud. Pilgrims sought consolation, protection, healing from Our Lady of Africa, made a vow or came to fulfil it: soldiers would gather there before entering the field to pray to “the Mother of the God of armies”, fishermen would have their nets blessed, Muslim women would address invocations to Lalla Meryem. People went there to bring a gift after a good harvest, to renew the promises of baptisms, to have young children blessed. On the esplanade, some men would take a cool drink, others would offer a candle or a bouquet of flowers and bring holy water, and young Catholic and sometimes Jewish brides would place their wreaths of orange blossoms on the esplanade. While no miracle is a priori at the origin of the foundation of the sanctuary in this place, history however, associates it with the place of the liberation of several Christian slaves, through the intercession of the Virgin. [Calixtus of Providence, 1892]. The exvotos of the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa, most of which express the gratitude of certain people to Our Lady of Africa for having seen their vows come true through her intercession, tell us much about the extent of this devotion to the one that the Algerians call Madame l’Afrique or Lalla Meryem. This is still visible on the faces of the elders who witnessed it first hand. Even today, many people still come to confide in his intercession, by lighting a candle or making a silent prayer. This shrine remains a privileged place, as did Lavigerie, for meetings, dialogues and sharing with Muslims. 

This devotion to Our Lady of Africa, like all Marian devotions, has its origin in the recognition of Mary’s place in God’s plan, since the experience of the first Christian community. First of all, the resurrection, made the first disciples discover that Jesus was truly God, and from there on, they constituted the stories of his childhood, and this contemplation of the child-Jesus-God, shed light on Mary’s place in Jesus’ mission: She is the Mother of God. And as we have heard, under the cross, Jesus reminds Mary and us that she is also our mother. She will then remain with the apostles, maternal presence in their midst, certainly accompanies them, encourages them, advises them in their mission, as a mother does to her children since under the cross Jesus asked her to do so. Mary, in giving birth to Jesus, did not finish her role as a theatre character would, who must go behind the curtain and let the others play their roles, but she continues to give birth, to make them grow and to advise those whom Jesus gave her as sons and daughters. It was therefore necessary that she be given the same maternal task, for the missionaries who were to bring the Good News to Africa, for the Africans and for all the Muslims who already honoured her as Mother of the Prophet. Since she was also offered to us as mother under the name of Our Lady of Africa, may she accompany us Africans, we Missionaries of Africa, in our task of proclaiming the Good News to the African world. May she watch over Africa, may she intercede for all her children throughout the world and especially at this time when every frightened child would do well to seek refuge and security in the arms of his mother.

Patient Bahati, M.Afr.

5th Islamic-Christian Marian Day (OLA Algiers)

Saturday, March 28, 2020 

5th Marian Christian-Muslim Day
MARY: Words of women; bearers of values

9:30 am: Welcome at the Basilica and craft market.
10:00 am: ROUND TABLE:

Mrs. Anna Medeossi and Mrs. Amel Oudine:
Presentation of the Sanctuary of Santa Cruz, Oran.

Mrs. Karima Berger:
My experience in writing the book “You, my foreign sister”.

Mrs. Fayrouz Bibi:
Towards the promotion of a culture of dialogue and tolerance in Algeria.

Mrs. Michel Chachatti and Mr. Naguib Shallal:
Kiara Lubeck and “Mary’s Work” in Algeria.

Mrs. Asma Nouira (Tunisia) :
Mary, figure of encounter, in the popular Muslim faith.

Mrs. Cissé Zeinab Keita (Mali) :
The values of a virtuous woman according to Islamic-Christian marital qualities.

1:00 pm: Marian CUSCOUS
4:00 pm: CONCERT of organ, piano and singing
with Mr Christian Bacheley
and the students of the 3rd Master class.

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