Despite being majority Muslim, Mali has a secular government and religious freedom. Christians number only about 2% of the population. A new president, Bah Ndaw, was sworn in on 25 September 2020, after a military coup in August, to rule for a transitional period of 18 months. The ousted government had been considered corrupt.
The impoverished West African country is struggling to control jihadists who are roaming around the north. They are fairly popular with local people, who like their sharia courts, which deal out justice that is quick, cheap and understandable, and the low crime levels that result from sharia punishments. The jihadists also provide Quranic schools in an area where there is very little education available.
Mali suffered a year of extreme violence in 2019, with jihadi militants carrying out murderous attacks, laying waste to Christian villages and causing hundreds to flee with only the clothes on their backs. The violence continued in 2020, with heavily-armed jihadists on motorcycles murdering 27 people in three attacks on mainly-Christian Dogon villages in central Mali in less than 24 hours on 26 May. Some were shot, others were burnt to death.
Many Christians have fled for safe areas, but these places have insufficient food and shelter. “People continue to move because where they were living they risked being killed by terrorists,” wrote a Christian leader in Mali to Barnabas in July. In Mali the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) almost doubled in 2019, to reach over 200,000 and more than 1,200 schools were forced to close between April 2017 and December 2019.
Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has exploited the tri-border region of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, spilling terrorism over borders. As armed forces retreat from this remote region, it is becoming a no-man’s land under the rule of a jihadi insurgency.
Pray that Islamist violence will come to an end in Mali. Ask that the Christians will not be fearful but will be filled with peace, knowing God’s presence with them.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet