Fonds de dotation NEVER FORGET BIAFRA 23, rue d'Essling 92400 Courbevoie - Boite n°25

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Fr. André Héroux November 16th, 2013
St Joseph House
26400 Allex France

After 1965, the decade of African new independences was ending very badly. News of dreadful slaughtering in Northern Nigeria reached us in Eastern Cameroon, the less populated Province (around Bertoua, Abong-Mbang, with a few Pigmies in the forest), bordering Congo-Brazza and Central Africa. With Dutch spiritans we were only two Frenchmen, in the Doumé College for teaching our tongue; I was outraged, and approved of the secession of Biafra, at variance (for the first and only time) with my elder, Fr. Bernard Vesval, also a Norman.

In 1971, to teach French still, I was sent to Buea, in English-speaking Cameroon. And from there I could go by motorcycle, at Easter 1974, for my first visit to neighboring Nigeria, still quite devastated by war (roads were still too bad for driving over there by car) ; I was quite warmly welcomed by my Ibos brothers and I met Christians quite alive and energetic in rebuilding their country. It was a great joy for me to receive in February 1975 the proposal to go and teach French in Nigeria, at Ihiala Holy Ghost Juniorate between Onitsha and Owerri, along the Niger River.

I was the first missionary sent to Nigeria after the expulsion, in 1970, of about 200 spiritans and nearly 100 from other Congregations; for they had stayed ministering in Biafra after the secession. For my own part I had to wait nearly one year to get my visa to go there. But what a joy then, these four years spent in this country so new, so dynamic!

The project « Never forget Biafra » in 2013 resounded loud in my memory. But at once I thought of apartheid in South Africa; I was there from 1995 to 98, after the arrival of Nelson Mandela with his proposal of a « Rainbow Nation ». What a dawn for this Country! It had been so tormented by racism for decades, and it could see rising a hope of reconciliation and true peace!

I had seen already in 1975-79 the beginning of a vigorous rebuilding in East Nigeria; I keep remote but marveled memories, amid these Ibos so determined in their projects. I could obtain the visit of « the Little Singers with the Wooden Cross » in Ibo land”. But I keep also the memory of spellbinding Ibo melodies. Sunday Assemblies were very festive celebrations, as in Cameroon ; they were the most beautiful perhaps, with those of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa.