“On Tuesday, 17 September 2019, we commemorate the first anniversary of the abduction of our Italian SMA confrere, Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli,” the Society of African Missions, Macalli’s religious community, posted online Tuesday.
“It is a sad day for the Society of African Missions, for his missionary brothers, his family and especially for the people of Niger whom Fr. Luigi served with great faithfulness and love.”
Macalli was kidnapped from his parish in remote Bomanga, near the border between Niger and Burkina Faso, in western Africa. The identity, affiliation, and motivation of the kidnappers is not clear.
“We are in silence and prayer,” Fr. Salako Désiré, provincial superior of the SMA’s Benin-Niger province, told ACI Africa Tuesday.
The society has asked supporters to continue praying that Macalli will be found alive and in good health.
Maccalli, an Italian, had been a missionary in Ivory Coast for several years before he was sent 12 years ago to the Archdiocese of Niamey, in Niger. Remote areas of the diocese lack roads, telephone service, and other infrastructure.
Another priest was with Macalli on the night he was abducted, and managed to escape. The priest said that armed kidnappers took Macalli’s cell phone and computer when they abducted the priest.
Weeks into his abduction, there were reports that Maccalli might have been taken across Niger’s border into Burkina Faso where jihadist militants have camps in the region’s forests. There have been, however, no demands for ransom or other communications from his kidnappers.
Named after the Niger River, the Republic of the Niger is bordered by Libya to the northeast, Chad to the East, Benin to the southwest, Nigeria to the South, Algeria to northwest, and Mali and Burkina Faso to the West. The country is predominantly Muslim; less than one percent of Niger’s people are Christians.