Benin remains one of the world’s least-developed countries. Efforts to help the economy often fail because of corruption. Almost 75% of economic activity is “underground” or illegal, with ties to Nigerian interests. Some suspect that criminals smuggle tens of thousands of children out of Benin each year to sell them as child labourers. Pray for justice and righteousness to grow in Benin, and for Nigeria’s influence to be more positive and godly. Despite these challenges, Benin is one of the few places where there is freedom, receptivity, and fruitfulness in reaching Muslim peoples with the Good News.
Less-reached peoples. Most peoples are still considered unreached - only a handful of smaller peoples have a Christian (Catholic) majority. Benin has Africa's highest percentage of followers of traditional religions and is probably the least evangelized non-Muslim country in Africa. For specific prayer:
- The Fon are the most numerous people in Benin. It was from Fon animism that voodoo developed. The Fon have a significant Christian population, but many are nominal and voodoo still permeates their lives. Outreach by several Western and African missions birthed a large number of churches, as growth and responsiveness are found in equal measure. Pray for more Fon Christian leaders, and for believers untainted by animistic influences.
- The Gbe include 19 southern peoples from the Kwa/Guinean grouping, forming a patchwork of unreached and unevangelized peoples - accounting for 59.5% of Benin's population. Among most of these peoples, indigenous evangelical churches are few, but growth is occurring.
- The Ede Nago are located on the southeastern border with Nigeria, in the region of Ketou. Until recently, they had little real exposure to the gospel and have no Scripture in their tongue. Related to them are the Idacca who live in south central Benin and are over 90% animist. There are now teams working among them.
- Muslim peoples. Most reside in the less evangelized far northern part of the country. They include the Dendi, Zerma, Hausa, Foodo and Kotokoli. Only the Zerma and Hausa have the whole Bible, and neither is more than 1% evangelical. Pray for teams to reach them - SIM, AoG and IMB all target specific peoples.
- The Fulbe (Fula) peoples of the far north have experienced a real breakthrough, with several thousand coming to Christ through Western (SIM, AoG) and indigenous ministries. There is a Bible school and a growing number of radio programmes for the Fula, and their receptivity to the gospel continues.
- The 1.3 million urbanites of the two capitals. Rapid urbanization brings many from unevangelized peoples into the cities, including a quickly growing Muslim population. Teams are needed to specifically reach these groups in their new urban context; pray for awareness of the cultural differences among peoples and how best to reach each one. Nigerian missions and a number of Benin-originated churches are doing urban evangelism in several cities.
Animism is a powerful force in Benin. Although Christianity is poised to numerically overtake ethnic religions in the near future, far too many Christians have a syncretized, compromised faith that sees them in church on Sunday and consulting the witch doctor during the week. Pray for a revival that purifies the Church and sees Christians honouring God alone. Pray also for many witch doctors to experience the power of Jesus and turn to Him.
Training institutes are crucial to forming a strong Church. Pray for teachers and students at AoG Bible Institute, UEEB's six Bible schools and one Bible college, Benin Bible Institute (Mennonite), Bible Training Center (Church of Christ), Christ's Power Ministries training centre, several other schools and hundreds more in TEE programmes. These vital schools need general staff and lecturers as well as bursaries and scholarships for students, who are usually impoverished.
Pray for missions. Outreach to central and northern Benin is only 60 years old. The largest groups: CMF, SIM, WBT, CEF, YWAM. Because so many are unevangelized and responsiveness is high, more workers are absolutely vital. Other West Africans can play a huge part in this need. The UEEB operates the only evangelical mission hospital in the north; SIM partners with UEEB leadership in this endeavour. Holistic ministry (such as village health ministries and rural development) brings remarkable response - pray for more groups that will combine development, education and healthcare with gospel proclamation.
Bible translation remains a pressing need. Nearly half of Benin's languages are without a Bible or even a NT. SIM translation teams are working in four languages, and SIL in eight. Pray for the inter-mission linguistic centre, which facilitates translation work by providing technology and resources. There is also a great need for other literature to be translated and printed: TEE materials, Bible commentaries and many others. Pray that this might help the Church become more biblically literate.
Media opportunities are highly strategic in an oral society with literacy rates of only 40%. Pray for:
- The effective use of audio recordings in evangelism and teaching. GRN produced recordings in 46 languages, some of which are spoken by the least evangelized groups in Benin. Cassettes, CDs and MP3 playing devices are all very useful.
- The Lord recently raised up many new partnerships between the JESUS film and churches in Benin. Pray for these to impact Benin's peoples with lasting evangelism and discipleship. The film has been translated into nine languages, with one more in progress.
- Radio. SIM/UEEB broadcasts in 14 languages over 21 FM stations, accounting for many hours a week of programming. TWR now broadcasts on AM bandwidth from its new transmitter in Benin. This will potentially reach 112 million West Africans with the gospel. There are many other local stations with Christian content, both in Benin and in Nigeria.
- Television. Christian television broadcasts from Nigeria can be seen in most of Benin. Pray for effective programmes relevant to people in Benin and for sound biblical material that impacts many.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.