North Africa is an Islamic Region
This is a celebration that is commemorated on the 30th of April and is associated with the Basilica of our Lady of Africa in Algiers, Algeria. Algeria like most of North Africa is pre-dominantly a Muslim country. Islam unlike most religions is not just a religion, but is also a culture and way of life. North Africa however was not always a predominantly an Islamic region. A long, long time ago…well in the second century AD, it was part of the Roman Empire under the emperor Constantine, who converted to Christianity. But it was conquered during the Arabs invasions of 665 AD, better known as the Byzantine invasion.
Bronze Statue of Immaculate Conception
It was not until the 19th Century that the French and as a result Christianity returned to Algeria. The first Bishop who was from Lyon in France was met by a hostile Muslim community and he immediately returned to France and reported the situation. Word spread among the Catholic orders and the bishop was offered a bronze statue of the Immaculate Conception. It was the desire of the donors that this statue would be considered a protection not only for the bishop in Algeria, but also for the Muslim and African communities living in Algiers.
No home for our Lady
When the Bishop returned to Algiers he did not have a place to put his precious art and religious piece. He therefore gave it to the custody of Trappers Fathers in Algiers who put it at the entrance of their monastery. The first Bishop did not realize the desire to build a church, but the second Bishop of Algiers laid the corner stone for a basilica in 1958.
Magnificent home for our Lady of Africa
The site was a beautiful hill with a magnificent view of the Mediterranean. The Basilica was completed and concentrated in 1872. It was at this time that the Bishop requested the Trappers to hand over the statue of our lady to dwell in the new home. The Fathers had become so attached to the statue that they were reluctant to let it go. But when they saw her new home, they parted with the statue reluctantly. It was shortly after this that the statue became known as Our Lady of Africa.
Our Lady Consolata This statue soon became known as consolation of the afflicted. Many people especially sailors and soldiers. In the 19th Century the world was full of wars, conquering armies and boats sailing to different war zones. There was also trade by seafaring merchants going on. The poor, sick, blind and others needing intervention came to the Basilica and often reported miraculous interventions from our lady.
Different Religions, One Lady
The amazing thing is that the basilica is not just for Catholics or even Christians, but also Muslims and other Algerian wishing to seek favors from our Lady. Muslims especially frequent the Basilica and seeks special favours from lala Merien as they refer to our Lady. Faithful Muslims have become very much aware of the precious place that the Catholic Church and Christians in general place on the Virgin. It is not strange for them because the Quran extensively talks about the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin Mary occupies an important part of the historical and dogmatic teachings of the Holy Quran. She is extensively mentioned in the Holy book of Muslims. An entire Sura, XIX is dedicated to her as the mother of Jesus. The Quran has much more teachings on Mary, her genealogy and childhood, than the four gospels of the bible. In one of the Hadith the prophet Mohammed alludes to that the only people ever born without the ‘devils touch’ (loosely translated to original sin) are Mary and Jesus. The Quran also states that Mary was chosen above all women. “Oh Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee, among above the women of all nations”. Sura III, (Al Imran), Ayah 42.
Our Lady of Africa
Today The statue is still found in a magnificent basilica that beautifies the sky line on the coast of the Mediterranean in Algiers. Build with domes as is prevalent in Islamic architecture; the most significant part of our Lady of Africa is that is she indeed our own African Mary Mother, Consolata!