Donatien Nyembo SJ - Vatican City
On the morning of 3 November 2021, Archbishop Djitangar said, "men in military uniform," claiming to be members of the Chadian army, forced their way into the courtyard of Blessed Isidore Bakanja Parish in the country's capital, N'Djamena. They behaved "without any respect for the people and place where they were," the Archbishop denounced. When the Parish Priest asked why they were there and if they had a search warrant justifying their presence, "he was first insulted and then assaulted and had his phone snatched away," the Archbishop said.
Religious intolerance by those who should protect
"We denounce certain attitudes and behaviours of contempt that some compatriots hold towards the religious beliefs of others," wrote Archbishop Djitangar. "This is a form of intolerance that should have no place in a plural society like ours," he continued. Those who behave in this way are "at war with God" because God does not despise any prayer made with a sincere heart, regardless of the religious affiliation of the believer," he said.
For the Archbishop of N'Djamena, this case is of great concern because it confirms the contempt for people and places of worship by those supposed to protect them.
What happened is not an isolated incident
The Chadian prelate was keen to point out that "what happened is not an isolated incident." He recalled several of his protest letters that had not been followed up by the country’s authorities.
There is the case of the letter the Archbishop addressed to the Chadian Minister of Security following the suppression of young people’s protests on 6 February 2018. "Tear gas canisters were deliberately fired in the courtyard of the Parish of Saint Matthias Mulumba, injuring the faithful who were leaving the morning Mass." On 29 March 2020, police officers prevented a priest from entering the Parish of the Sacré-Cœur de Chagoua, "where he was to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist with a live broadcast on Radio Arc-en-ciel. This was during the period of (Covid-19) confinement."
Flagrant violation of the country's Constitution
After this umpteenth violation of a Catholic place of worship, accompanied by violence, without authorisation and without any declared reason, the Archbishop says he has no choice but to go public.
The Archbishop seeks clarification from the country's authorities on the frequent lack of respect for Catholic places of worship. He says what is happening is a flagrant violation of the Constitution's first article, which declares that the Republic of Chad is a secular state.
Chadian soldiers who deliberately violate sacred institutions are placing themselves above the law and are acting with impunity.
The Archbishop says that whatever the motives of the security forces, it is unacceptable to insult and lay hands on a religious person exercising his responsibility, even if he is a foreigner (which was not the case of the priest attacked).
"We wonder if the next place to be attacked will not be the Cathedral where, right next door, a market for military supplies of all kinds is being erected in full view of everyone," wondered the Archbishop of N'Djamena.
For the prelate, what is happening in Chad is "a form of intolerance that should have no place in a plural society like ours," he emphasises.
Pray for those who harm the Church
The Archbishop has asked the country's Catholic faithful, to pray for a change of heart of those who have no respect for sacred things, out of ignorance or contempt. He also urged them not to be afraid to denounce all suspicious conduct and activities likely to harm the sacred character of places of worship. However, he has also encouraged all parishes and Catholic institutions to beef up security at their premises. Above all, Archbishop Djitangar said the faithful should ask the Lord to forgive all those who harm the Church.