There are about 4,000 Catholic Christians in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, a country in northwest Africa that is otherwise almost completely Muslim. Serving this congregation in the country’s only diocese are a bishop, priests, and 27 sisters who come from Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The sisters living here have their hands full. They care for migrants, the sick, expectant mothers, prisoners, and the disabled. They work in schools and other educational facilities; they teach women who cannot receive a formal education basic literacy skills. On top of this, they care for thousands of malnourished children in one of the world’s poorest countries.
And conditions in Mauritania continue to worsen. In 1960, nearly 85 percent of the population were nomads and pastoralists who relied on their livestock. Since then, the desert has expanded, and many have lost their flocks. Each year, more people migrate to the cities and wind up living in their slums. Plus, western Mauritania faces the Atlantic Ocean, and several coastal towns have been rendered uninhabitable by rising sea levels.
Thankfully, the work of the Church is highly esteemed by Muslims in the country. One of Bishop Martin Happe’s Muslim friends shared with him positive memories of Catholic sisters. When he was still a child, he and his playmates would think of minor ailments so they could ring a local convent’s doorbell. In return, they received not only bandages but glasses of lemonade. To this day, he remembers the sisters’ names.
But while the Church and its sisters are respected for their charitable work, they receive no financial support from Mauritania’s government. ACN has agreed to help the sisters with a contribution of $22,500.
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