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Christians in the Muslim World

North Africa: the Tragedy of Emigration

Algiers 9~12 February 2006

The situation of the Catholic Communities of North Africa and the tragedy of migrants were at the centre of the meeting of the Conference of Bishops of the North African Region (CERNA) held in Algiers on 9-12 February. The final communiqué declared that 'the bishops recognised that the Spirit of God is manifested in the very fragility of our communities'. The Catholic communities of North Africa are made up in large part of 'foreign workers and students, migrants, and even prisoners, who bear witness to the Good News together with the permanent Christians of our country. Faced with the tragedy of thousands and thousands of migrants who use North Africa as a trampoline for emigration to Europe, the members of the CERNA declared: 'the Christians present in the Maghreb, who are themselves often foreigners, understand the suffering of migrants. The bishops wanted to go beyond an immediate feeling of powerlessness in relation to the complexity of the phenomenon of migration. Referring to the recent encyclical of the Holy Father, we pray that God may give our communities the strength to practice real charity when circumstances make a migrant our neighbour'. During the conference the bishops elected the new office-holders of the CERNA and chose Msgr. Vincent Landel, the Archbishop of Rabat, as President; the Bishop of Oran. Msgr Alphonse Georger, as Vice-President; Msgr. Maroun Lahham, Bishop of Tunis, as the third member of the Permanent Council; and Rev. Daniel Nourissat, of the diocese of Rabat, as General Secretary. The next conference of the CERNA will be held in Tunis on 26-29 October. The bishops will study the guidelines for the Synod on Africa, the practice of Christian charity in the light of the encyclical Deus Caritas Est of Pope Benedict XVI, and the development of Islamic-Christian relations.

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