Dakar, the capital, is the most strategic location for evangelizing the entire country. It hosts over 25% of the nation's population as well as representatives of every ethnic group. From 15 evangelical groups meeting in 1990, there are over 60 today. But while Dakar itself is blessed with many congregations, the outlying areas have only a few small churches - for the nearly three million dwelling there. Dakar is the mission base for most agencies, but only a few missionaries are actually committed to church planting there. Pray for this city to become a source of gospel light for the whole country.
The Casamance region in the south has been troubled for many years by groups who are, at times, separatists, but often mere bandits. The Casamance is separated from most of Senegal by geography (separated by Gambia), ethnic composition (Jola-dominated as opposed to Wolof) and even religion (significantly more animist and Christian sentiment in the south). Pray for long-term stability and peace as well as for sustained Christian ministry - these are often disrupted by sporadic violence.
Evangelical believers are few. Their growth rate is slow, and only among the Serer (FLM, AoG), Bassari (AoG), Balanta (WEC, AoG, NTM) and Jola (WEC, IMB, CAPRO) has there been any significant church planting. But members of the fledgling Church are growing confident about their identity in Christ and as evangelicals in Senegal. Pray that the Church will take hold of its identity in Christ and powerfully demonstrate its outworking to the nation.
Young people. Of Senegal's population, 55% are under age 20. Many of these are children in crisis; ministry among them is growing - drop-in centres, vocational training and others. The younger generation, often less committed to "formal religion", are thereby more open to the gospel. An increasing number of ministries are focusing on reaching young people. Pray especially for:
- Students. The small GBUSS/IFES group in Dakar is fervent; many of its members are non-Senegalese, but nationals are an increasing proportion. Lack of employment opportunities, poor economic conditions, political instability and no real hope for the future are disincentives for this growing section of the population. Pray that the God of the Bible could be that source of hope for young people with so much potential. Language clubs are opportunities to reach out to students. Pray for many such clubs to start and grow.
- The 100,000 Talibé (literally, "a person in need of something" and often known as "tin-can boys") are children sent from their homes - due to poverty and religious sentiment - to live and study the Qur'an with religious marabouts. The marabouts in turn send the boys to beg in the streets for food and money. These talibé live in tight quarters and are often neglected and in poor health. Pray for an increase in the work of WEC, IMB, CMA and others working with them. Pray also for God to raise up more ministry to the 30,000 street children in Dakar alone and 400,000 children at risk generally.
Unreached peoples. Pray for strong churches to be planted among the:
- Wolof and the Lebu sub-group, resolutely Muslim despite much and varied outreach from the AoG, WV, IMB, Brethren, WEC, SIM, Mennonites and others; results are meagre. Though only around 100 believers and the beginnings of a few congregations exist, a change is occurring. A raft of Christian resources, including the NT in Wolof, audio Scripture, the JESUS film, Christian radio, Wolof worship music and more, along with increased workers - both expat and national - give more opportunities than ever for the Wolof to know Jesus. Pray for the underlying Spiritism that binds many to be broken, and for the birth of an indigenous Wolof Church.
- Fulbe - including the Fulakunda, Tukulor and Fulba Jeeri - largely a pastoral people. Many are nomadic, which presents a great missiological challenge to those seeking to plant churches. Almost all are at least nominally Muslim, and the Tukulour consider themselves the progenitors and defenders of Islam in Senegal. The Lutherans work among the northern Fulbe. WEC works in the Casamance, where there are two small congregations. The Tukulor NT was published in 1998 and the Fulakunda NT in 2000. Partnerships to reach these peoples are emerging, and the number of believers, while still tiny, is increasing.
- Jola, speaking 13 major dialects and languages - only five of them have any Scripture at all. Islam is more prevalent in the north of their area, but all are bound by fetishism. There are now more than 15 Jola-led congregations and fellowships (WEC, CAPRO, IMB and others). The Jola Kasa NT was published in 2009.
- Maures. All are Muslim, with only a few known believers. The majority live in inaccessible Mauritania, though many can be reached in the Senegal River Valley. There are weekly broadcasts of Scripture readings on several radio programmes in the Hassaniya language.
- Malinke peoples, mostly in the south, include the Mandinka, Maninka, Jahanka, Kassonke and Yalunka. Almost all are Muslim with folk practices; the marabouts are highly influential among these peoples. Several mission agencies work among them; the NT, the JESUS film and many audio and written gospel materials exist for the Malinke.
- Other significant peoples who number among the largest and least evangelized include the Soninke (Pioneers, WEC, Korean Methodists), Serer-Safi, Manjaco (NTM) and Susu. NTM also works among many of the smaller tribes in the south, several of whom are animistic or nominally Muslim.
- Illegal emigrants, while not strictly a people, are a group worthy of prayer. Every year, thousands attempt the dangerous sea voyage to the Canary Islands in hope of finding work and a new life in Europe. Some die at sea or are repatriated; those who make it often find a hard and lonely life. Numbers are dropping due to increased vigilance by Spanish and other naval forces. Pray for compassionate ministry to those in Spain and that, in their new situation, they would be open to the gospel.
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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.