Upon arrival, we were met by Bishop Ambroise Ouedraogo, the Bishop of the second-largest diocese in the country.
There are 250 Catholics in Maradi and 3,000 in the entire diocese (that's right, 250 and 3,000, Niger is 99% Muslim).
Commenting on the disparity, Bishop Ambroise remarked that "I was able to raise money for Church infrastructure by pointing out that there were 7 million Nigeriens in the diocese that had yet to be converted!
By the same token, the Bishop was not reluctant to appoint a Muslim as head of the Catholic schools in the diocese.
Much to our amusement, the Bishop went on to somewhat jokingly point out that "the education director is more rigid than we are".
Bishop Ambroise, who is responsible for Muslim-Christian dialogue in the country, was quick to point out that "Niger couldn't survive without Nigeria and that the problems that the country faces and their solutions are essentially political.
There needs to be dialogue if there is to be peace".
At the end of the day, Bishop Ambroise returned to see us and used the opportunity to ask us if it wouldn't be better if the beneficiaries had to make even a very small contribution in exchange for the free food that they would be receiving.
believed that "we need to avoid creating dependency".
I responded that in the present situation, where people's very survival is at stake, the rations are destined for those that would die without them.
responded that, "we need to protect people's dignity as well as their lives.