Mali, although one of the largest countries in Africa, only has a population of about 19 million. 90% of whom are Muslim, 5% are Christian and 5% following traditional African religions. This landlocked country in West Africa is largely flat and arid, being part of the Saharan and Sahelian regions.
The Niger river flows through the interior, providing the main trading and transport artery in the country, as well as giving periodic flooding which enriches the land around it for cultivation and pasture for livestock. Agriculture is the main occupation, with cotton production, cattle and camel herding and fishing the major concerns.
The country’s constitution provides for freedom of religion which until recently was largely respected. Islam, introduced in the 11th century, has been adapted to local conditions with amicable relations between Muslims and other faiths. Sadly, with the rise of militant Islam around the world over the last ten to fifteen years, things have changed.
The desert regions of the Sahara,including large parts of Mali, and where there is little effective governmental control, have become a haven, a hotbed for jihadists, who are now posing a security threat to the whole region.
The likes of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shebab, and militant Felani Herdsmen, target all who are not Muslim. In 2012 sharia law was introduced in the northern parts of Mali, and persecution of Christians has become quite severe, especially in those northern parts.
This persecution has grown increasingly violent in its hostility towards Christians in particular, especially those who try to share their faith. Destruction of churches, of property, farms, even whole villages with wholesale killings of men and rape and abduction of women are becoming ever more frequent, especially in these northern areas.
Many flee their home areas and become refugees in the southern part of the country, but they come with precious few possessions and rely on charity for help. Those women left behind are often subjected to sexual abuse, forced or under-age marriage, and are denied access to modern education. In spite of these dangers, Christian missionaries still try to spread the gospel message and live under constant threat of kidnapping and martyrdom. On top of all this the scourge of Covid-19 adds another danger to Christians in Mali, especially as many of them are desperately poor and suffer from malnutrition.
• Thank the Lord for the presence of the church in Mali.
• Thank the Lord that there is freedom of worship in the country’s constitution.
• Pray that the rise in militant Islam does not remove this precious freedom.
• Pray for peace in that country to be restored, and for an end to the persecution that has become increasingly violent.
• Pray for those who have become refugees, that they will find a safe and welcome refuge in the south.
• Pray for the safety of those Christian missionaries who are still trying to spread the gospel, especially in the north.
• Give thanks that Bible translation continues in spite of Covid restrictions, and that these restrictions will be lifted soon.
• Pray for political stability in the country as it faces these joint pressures of jihadists, poverty, poor infrastructure, and now covid.