Mali has experienced great upheaval in recent years. First, a military coup attempt in the south (in 2012) created instability. Then other rebels took control of the north. These rebels, a mix of Tuareg separatists and Muslim extremists, tried to impose strict Islamic law. Cruel acts were committed, and some Christians were targeted for death. Up to 500,000 people fled to the south or to other countries, including most Christians in the region. French military intervention, followed by a UN presence, stopped the rebels. Elections and a new government in 2013 brought short-term stability. Islamist groups still operate and commit violent terrorist attacks. Now, the main conflict is between the nomadic Fulani herdsmen and the farming tribes of the Dogon and Bambara. Tensions have long existed between these groups, but these have escalated into murderous assaults by armed ethnic militia. May the Prince of Peace prevail in a land crippled by violence!
Islam in Mali tends to be moderate and uniquely West African. The large majority practice a tolerant brand of Islam that incorporates elements of African traditional religions and superstitious folk practices. Large amounts of aid from Libya and Saudi Arabia keep the population further tied to Islam. In Bamako alone, over 3,000 Qur'anic schools and individual marabouts teach about 40% of children. Pray for Muslims in Mali to have the opportunity to hear, read about and experience Jesus and the assurance of salvation He alone offers.
The number of Christians has not increased by enough to even keep pace with Mali's rapid population growth - evangelicals fell from 0.91% of the population in 1990 to 0.69% in 2010. Most growth is biological, and many who make decisions for Christ return to their former religion. This could be addressed with better follow-up through evangelism activities, discipleship programmes, pastoral training and Bible schools, but lack of funds to train for and support such ventures is a real problem. There are nearly 700 evangelical congregations, but most of them are not actively engaged in evangelism and outreach, despite many in Mali being spiritually open. Pray for boldness, passion and a burden for the unsaved to awaken in the churches and for a new wave of evangelism such as happened in the 1980s.
Opportunities abound for a positive impact by caring Christians. Pray for the many agencies actively involved in the following: church planting and evangelism (Avant, CAPRO, World Venture); relief; local development to conserve soil, vegetation and water (CRWM, Norwegian Lutherans); education (UWM); digging wells; and medical outreach (CMA, Allianz Mission). All of these groups minister in more than just one way, and many others work in Mali as well. The door is open to serve in Mali; ask God to send more workers for the harvest.
Bamako, the capital and only major city in the country, has 60 small churches and over 100 expatriate missionaries, but only a minority are involved in urban church planting. Many suburbs are still without a meaningful witness, even as the city rapidly grows and spreads. The churches struggle with limited facilities and with expanding what facilities do exist. A prominent, visible Christianity - with actual buildings as symbols of growth and presence - would be an answer to prayer; a dynamic, growing movement of people to Christ irrespective of physical infrastructure would be even greater!
Of the 60 indigenous ethnic groups, only five are more than 1% evangelical - the Bambara (1.1%), Bobo (2.9%), Dogon (3.5%) and Senufo (1%). All peoples are in desperate need of the good news; 35 of them are categorized as unreached. Pray also for the smaller (therefore often neglected) groups of 25,000 people or less with no or few known believers (Wolof, Fulbe Jeeri, Kagoro, Banka, Yalunka, Jahanka, Humburi-Senni, Pana, Tiemacewe). Ask God to reveal the right approach so that they might be reached with the gospel. Pray for a decisive breakthrough among all peoples.
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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.