What does persecution look like in Mali?
Around ten years ago, Islamic extremist groups took control of northern Mali, burned down churches and forced out the Christian population. The Christian community there has never fully recovered, and Christians in that area still live with the threat of violent attacks, especially if they share the gospel. Mali is one of Africa's poorest nations, and many Christians lost everything during that time. Their homes, businesses and property are still targeted, keeping many in poverty.
Mali has gone through great political instability in the last few years, and the leadership vacuum has strengthened the Islamic extremist groups and expanded their territory. This has put Christians at greater risk of violence in various parts of the country. Militant Islamic extremists abduct people, including Christians, and kill them or keep them in sexual slavery. Others are put under pressure to join the groups, where they will be forcibly converted to Islam and made to fight. Some Christian parents send their sons away to safer areas to try to protect them.
If somebody from a Muslim background becomes a Christian and escapes persecution by extremists, they will still face pressure from their family to give up their new faith. This can include being divorced, losing all the support of their family, social isolation and even losing access to their children.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Believers who convert to Christianity from Islam are the most vulnerable across Mali.
Christians living in the northern part of Mali and in other areas where militant Islamic extremist groups are active are at risk of violent persecution.
“More than once, my family sent jihadists to my house to harm us. But one day, while my husband was on a business trip, he was gunned down. He was killed for his faith… I have no idea what happened to his body.”Naomi
What has changed this year?
Mali has risen several places on the World Watch List this year, and this is due to an increase in pressure in many different areas. The government sees Christianity as a Western influence, and derides it. Jihadists are expanding and the general situation in the country is deteriorating fast. The country has seen two coups in the recent past, which has helped the jihadists expand their power and target Christians. It seems that the government is only effective in major cities and those areas outside are in the hands (directly or indirectly) of jihadists who entice the youth into joining their ranks. The military junta asked the help of the Russian mercenary groups – the Wagner – to help them. Yet, the Wagner group also targets civilians, including Christians.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Mali?
Open Doors works through local partners in Mali to provide persecution survival training, discipleship programmes and economic empowerment projects.
How can you pray for Mali?
- Pray that stability, law and order will return to Mali, with militant extremists pushed back.
- Pray for the flourishing of Open Doors partners' work to help vulnerable Christians earn a living.
- Pray that new believers will find fellowship with other Christians and retain their hope and joy.
Lord Jesus, we pray You will break the power of the violent extremist groups destroying Mali's future. We ask that Christians will be able to return to their homelands and live in peace. May new believers who feel alone and vulnerable know Your powerful presence with them today, and forge wonderful connections with other Christians that sustain and strengthen their faith. Amen.