There are about 467,000 Christians in Mali, which is a small percentage of the population of more than 20 million.
When Islamic extremist groups took control of the northern part of Mali in 2012, churches were burned down and Christians forced to flee. The displacement that happened still affects Christians who lost their homes and whose churches were destroyed. Although some Christians and congregations have returned to the north under police protection, they still live under the threat of attack by Islamic militants.
Evangelistic activities in the north are especially risky and could lead to attacks from Islamic extremists. Christian missionaries operating in Mali also live under the constant threat of abduction and some have indeed been kidnapped by jihadists. Christians from a Muslim background are particularly vulnerable to violence (especially in the north) and pressure from their relatives and family.
Even in the south of the country, where Christians enjoy more religious freedom, threats from Islamic extremist groups have increased. Additionally, the coup in late summer 2020 continued Mali’s political upheaval, leaving the door open for extremist elements to take root in places without strong leadership. Extremists have also used the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic to assert more control in some parts of Mali, one of Africa’s poorest countries. As these groups often particularly target Christians, this is a worrying trend, though it remains to be seen what the country’s interim leadership will mean for religious freedom.
“More than once, my family sent jihadists to my house to kill us. One day, my husband was gunned down.” Naomi
Believers from a Muslim background are particularly vulnerable to rejection and intimidation from their families. Like Naomi, who had to flee her home in the north after her husband was murdered, and lived in a camp for internally displaced people in Bamako, Mali’s capital. She was there for several years – but your prayers and support meant that Open Doors partners were able to find her a home when the camp closed.
She still faces persecution from her Muslim neighbours and some family members but, wonderfully, in the past year three of her sisters have stopped opposing her and have become Christians themselves! “I never retaliated or drove them out of my home. Instead, I showed them love. The love we showed them has won them over to Christ,” says Naomi.
Naomi even has godly love for her neighbours who persecute her: “I am a Christian, I have to show love even to the worst of my enemies. Who knows, I may draw them to Christ despite their attitude towards me. Christians are people who love their enemies – their haters – as brothers. That is how we can win them for the kingdom.”
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Mali. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local partners to strengthen the church in Mali with persecution survival training, economic empowerment projects and discipleship support for new believers.
Heavenly Father, we pray for Your people in Mali. Sustain them and give them courage. Ease the suffering of the wounded, give hope to the despairing, and provide rest for the weary. Protect our brothers and sisters who are at risk of being attacked, and change the hearts of those who would attack Christians. We know You are the only One who can do this, and we ask all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.