GUINEA – Church flourishes again after years of suppression by dictator

Guinea is an overwhelmingly Islamic country in which roughly 85% of the population of 11.6 million people are Muslims. Christians make up only around 8%, while the remainder of the population are adherents of traditional African religions.

For decades this  West African country was dominated by the regime of dictator Ahmed Sékou Touré, who ruled from 1958 until his death in 1984. After his death, the Senegalese newspaper Le Soleil spoke of the end of what it called the hitherto “longest and most murderous dictatorship on the continent“. Torture and executions were an everyday occurrence and thousands of people disappeared without trace. The Catholic Church, which opposed the regime, was forced into silence and Archbishop Raymond-Maria Tchidimbo of Conakry spent almost 9 years in prison, where he suffered torture. His successor, the present Cardinal Robert Sarah, was on the dictator‘s death list though Sékou Touré died before he was able to carry out his plans.

During the years of the dictatorship the Catholic Church was barely able to develop. Even today it only has three dioceses. For many years the seminarians training for the priesthood had to study in neighbouring Senegal and Mali. But now the Catholic Church has built its own seminary in Kendoumaya in the Archdiocese of Conakry; it opened its doors in the academic year 2012/2013. It is named after Pope Benedict XVI and serves the seminarians from all three dioceses of the country. However, there was a serious setback as a result of the Ebola epidemic in 2014, with the result that the academic year was not able to begin until a few months later than normal. However, the seminary although still in its infancy, has managed to cope even with this challenge.

ACN has provided substantial support for the new seminary. However, until now the seminarians were only able to study philosophy here and still had to travel to Bamako in Mali for their theology studies. Now this is about to change.

ACN is once again helping the seminary by contributing 40,000 Euros for the construction of an additional dormitory wing for the theology students. We are also giving 30,000 Euros for the training of the 69 seminarians.

ACN International