Serving God's People in Africa since 1868

Provide Medical Supplies in Bamako

Ten months ago, Northern Mali was invaded Islamist terrorists. Since their arrival, they have imposed strict Islamic (sharia) law: tv, radio and music are all prohibited; women had to be veiled; robbers had their hand or their foot cut off; unmarried couples were stoned to death.

The area under Islamic occupation includes the parish of Gao, which had been founded and run by the Missionaries of Africa for the past 60 years. When Gao was attacked by Islamist fighters, there were about 700 Catholics in that parish– scattered over a huge region. In Gao itself, there were about 350 people; Timbuktu was home to 150 Catholics, Kidal 120 more.


Dear John,

THE FOLLOWING IS AN URGENT MESSAGE FROM Fr. Laurent Balas,ONE OF OUR MISSIONARIES WORKING IN MALI, WEST AFRICA.

*** EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE IS URGENTLY NEEDED!***

Ten months ago, Northern Mali was invaded Islamist terrorists. Since their arrival, they have imposed strict Islamic (sharia) law: tv, radio and music are all prohibited; women had to be veiled; robbers had their hand or their foot cut off; unmarried couples were stoned to death.

The area under Islamic occupation includes the parish of Gao, which had been founded and run by the Missionaries of Africa for the past 60 years. When Gao was attacked by Islamist fighters, there were about 700 Catholics in that parish– scattered over a huge region. In Gao itself, there were about 350 people; Timbuktu was home to 150 Catholics, Kidal 120 more.

When Gao was seized, there were five of Missionaries of Africa at the parish and three sisters. It was the eve of Palm Sunday when it all began. On that Saturday, after a day of fierce fighting, our Missionaries were informed by a friend of the mission that one of the two military camps had just been taken by the rebels. They were told to flee immediately. They did: taking with them the three Sisters. They left in two cars and drove out of Gao into the desert. It was 9:00 at night. Twenty minutes later, Islamists fighters invaded the mission, looking for them, to slaughter them. The fathers had narrowly escaped a terrible death.

Within a week, thousands of people fled, Muslims and Christians alike, fearing for their lives. Christians completely panicked. Many of them hid among their Muslim neighbors and friends, before they could find an opportunity to leave. One family spent all night hidden in one room of their tiny house. The Islamists were in the living room, and they looted the whole house throughout the night, but forgot to check the room in which the family was hidden. The fact that they were not found, even though the house was totally emptied of all its contents, was a miracle.

The next day, the family (8 persons in all) fled through Niger, Burkina Faso and finally Mali, after an exhausting week-long trip. They are now here living in the small house of their son in Bamako, praising the Lord for being still alive.

Another family had come to Gao thirty years ago. Etienne, the husband was the librarian in the public library of the town. His wife, Clarice, was a nurse at the hospital. Their entire lives, all their belongings, were in Gao. On Good Friday, they were forced to flee Gao amid horrendous circumstances, leaving all their belongings behind them. They travelled with three bags in all, containing what they had managed to save. We found them months later, and took them into one of our Christian communities. For the previous six months, their family had been scattered all over Bamako, since no one could care for all of them. We want to help them find work.

There are thousands of cases. Behind every single person that fled, there is a profound drama.

Thousands have left fearing for their lives, going to the south and beginning all over again. Some have been received by families already overcrowded. Here in Bamako — where I am living — there are thousands of refugees — but they are not in one place, like refugee camps. There are no refugee camps here. They are coming to our parish, looking for help, mainly to feed their children or to take them to a hospital. There are also numerous pregnant women who escaped and need to be taken care of. Our Missionary Sisters are also working to help as many refugees as possible, but the numbers are overwhelming.

Our mission at Bamako has a dispensary. It is well run our Sisters, but it needs help to accommodate the number of refugees from the north. The quality of our dispensary recognized by all is due to the hard work of our Religious Sisters, who run it with a special attention to the poor and the refugees. We desperately need assistance to receive twice as many people as well as develop a small maternity and a nutritional center to the existing dispensary. The maternity section needs to be able to treat 60 women a week; the nutritional center needs to care for 150 children a day with their mothers. In so doing, we would be able to follow up children with their mothers from birth to their infancy, vaccinations, and even try and have a follow up of their schooling. We hope in that way to be able to do this as soon as possible!

My friend, I am praying you can help the refugee men, women and children Fr. Laurent Balas has written about. The situation is beyond critical! Will you help us?

My hope is that we can raise at least $52,000 to provide Fr. Laurent’s mission with the medical and nutritional supplies he outlined in his letter — as well as for our other missions in need. Please know that no donation is too small. At such a critical time and in such an urgent situation every dollar counts!