Panama's strategic location and socio-political stability also attract many other forces to the area. Proximity to Colombia and the prevalence of offshore finance in Panama mean that drug cartels and other undesirables have a strong presence. Much of Panama's economy is in service to either these offshore bank or to launder money. In 2016, the leak of the Panama Papers exposed massive scales of international tax evasion and fraud facilitated through Panama-based services. Even more alarming is the fact that so little has been done about these revelations, either in Panama or abroad. Pray for a government that will root out corruption, oppose wickedness, and uphold righteousness.
AIDS remains a scourge of the population. The HIV-occurrence rate is dropping, but the impact of AIDS is already devastating and yet to be fully felt - on the economy, demography and in ministry. There are around 500,000 new infections every year and nearly two million AIDS orphans. About 14% of the population are infected (some sources say more), but some regions or groups are much higher (infection rates of women aged 20-34 are at more than 40%). Nearly half of those with HIV have access to anti-retrovirals, but half of those with HIV also have tuberculosis, greatly increasing mortality rates. Pray that Christians might be used of God to care for the victims, the orphans and the bereaved. In Christ, there is a meaningful message of eternal hope, plus the spiritual power and moral foundation to mitigate the impact of AIDS. There are dozens of Christian agencies and NGOs, as well as many churches, active in this field.
Biblical Christianity continues to be strong and influential.
- Evangelism outreaches, ministries to social concerns and prayer networks have all multiplied. A great variety of Christian agencies minister to needy sections of society.
- Pentecostal denominations flourish among all communities, growing from 400,000 affiliates in 1960 to 6.3 million in 2010. Growth since 1995 has been especially pronounced and has incorporated an enterpreneurial approach to ministry and outreach. Notable ministries are the various AoG groups, Apostolic Faith Mission, Full Gospel Church of God and others.
- Charismatic numbers have rapidly multiplied among all groups - to now one-fourth of the population. Networks draw together many such churches under apostolic leadership from across all regions and races in South Africa. There is much good to be said about the robustness of these movements.
- Mainline denominations have, in part, been transformed by new vision, structures and outreach. The cell church movement has significant impact. The NGK has many megachurches, much increase in mission output and renewal in many congregations.
- The massive growth of African Initiated Churches to 33% of the African population. Most of these in South Africa originate from the Zion Christian Churches. There are as many as 4,500 groups (many being of one congregation only), which range from evangelical/Pentecostal to highly syncretistic to barely recognizable as Christian. The work of KwaSizabantu Mission is particularly commendable and effective in rooting a dynamic Christian faith deeply among the Zulu people.
Training of Christian leaders is a strategically vital but multi-faceted task:
- There are 28 theological, degree-awarding university faculties and seminaries, and many more Bible colleges with around 5,000 full-time residential and 8,000 distance-learning students. Funding theological education is a challenge for churches, students and the institutions themselves, leading to a decline in numbers. Many of the larger, newer churches prefer to run their own Bible training programmes.
- TEE and modular training are cost-effective, contextually sensitive alternatives, and they offer training even to pre-tertiary level. Over 20,000 are involved with TEE studies in South Africa, including over 3,000 at TEE College (jointly supported by nine denominations), where programmes up to a Bachelor of Theology degree are available in five of the national languages. Live School is another example of flexible training made available to those who otherwise have no training opportunities.
- The numerous African Independent Churches (AICs) are often pastored by those with little education. Many of these churches can be highly syncretistic and are more influenced by African customs and worldviews than by biblical truth. Suspicious of Western motives for involvement, many AICs instruct self-sufficiently through on-the-job apprenticeships. But appropriate and sensitively applied teaching is increasingly welcomed. Increasing numbers of Christian educators provide this crucial ministry; African Enterprise and SIM, along with others, enjoy unprecedented opportunities in this area. Pray that this extraordinary and significant movement may retain the best of African culture yet become more biblical and accountable to the wider body of Christ.
Immigrants, legal and illegal, have streamed over South Africa's borders, especially from Zimbabwe, Congo-DRC, Mozambique, Angola, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and Nigeria. Their peak numbers are estimated at five million (although some claim it is as high as 18 million), but many of these use South Africa only as a jumping-off point to other destinations. A pitiful 100,000 are recognized as refugees or asylum seekers. Zimbabweans alone exceed one million (and may be more than three times that), most of them having fled Mugabe's cruel regime and the chaos there. Anti-immigration sentiment subsequently rose, with dozens of riots and episodes of murderous violence against those seeking refuge. The sad irony is that this violence is perpetrated by blacks against blacks. Pray for the nation to recognize that as a main African power, economically and politically, it has a responsibilty to assist those in great need. Pray for ministries of compassion to those from other lands seeking food, jobs or simply safety. Pray for the evangelism and discipleship of these millions.
Ethnic and religious groups for specific prayer focus:
- Muslims are less than 2% of the population, but they exercise an influence far greater than their numbers. Very few Muslims have ever openly become followers of the Lord Jesus. Pray for groups of believers from Muslim backgrounds to emerge.
- Hindus are 50% of the Asian population. With a steady flow of Hindu people coming to Christ, now 19% of the Asian population is Christian. Still, many need the freedom found only in Christ. Demonization is a major problem. The work of Jivannadi Mission, Full Gospel Church of God, Apostolic Faith Mission, NGK, AEF/SIM, Church of England in South Africa and Baptists is fruitful, with some large and lively churches. The great potential for these believers to go out as missionaries is beginning to be realized.
- East Asians. The Chinese are of three types - long-term residents, immigrants from Taiwan in the 1980s and the present legal and illegal immigrants from mainland China. There is a significant Vietnamese community as well. A number of churches and missions (SIM included) have ministry among these groups. Mainlanders are the most responsive to ministry at this time.
- The Portuguese and Greek communities are largely Catholic or Orthodox. There are some Portuguese evangelical congregations, but Greeks are more neglected.
- The Jews live largely in Gauteng and in Cape Town. They are mostly Orthodox in religious practice. There is a small but growing number of Messianic Jews as well as believers of Jewish background who have assimilated into Christian churches. Jews for Jesus and CWI work in South Africa to reach Jews for the Messiah.
Mission vision continues to be strong as the nation sends out a disproportionately high number of missionaries. South Africa's commitment in the past was notable, with internationally known agencies such as AEF (now SIM), Healthcare Christian Fellowship International (HCFI) with its worldwide ministry to and through medical workers, Africa Evangelistic Band, Dorothea Mission, the NGK and more recently African Enterprise. Local AFM and many charismatic churches have new mission initiatives. OM and YWAM have done much in training and sending out young people into ministry.
- Get all of this content and daily notifications in our free mobile app. Download here ›
- Sign up for a daily e-mail that gets you the featured prayer point of the day straight to your inbox.
- This content is a curated selection of points from our book, Operation World. Find out more about it and all the rest of Our Publications ›
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.