While many countries around the world are in the midst of or are starting to emerge from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, countries across sub-Saharan Africa are just beginning to feel its impact – and many of the countries that are affected are places where Christians suffer some of the worst persecution in the world.
Sulieman*, director of Open Doors in West Africa, says, “We want to ask you to continue to pray… We have received calls from some pastors asking for help in the area of food. But also, believers in the [refugee] camps are now struggling with food support. Widows and orphans with small incomes due to lockdown are also unable to continue trading and we’re getting continuous requests for food and for (other) support.
“In the midst of these coronavirus challenges and this situation, the attacks on Christians have not stopped… Therefore, we want to ask you to stand with us in prayer and support that we can continue to serve the persecuted Body of Christ, even in these very difficult times that we are all passing through.”
Below are some information about how each country is affected by and combating the virus, and how you can pray:
SOMALIA (#3 IN THE WORLD WATCH LIST)
The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group has warned Muslims to beware of infectious diseases such as coronavirus, which it says are spread ‘by the crusader forces [Christians] who have invaded the country and the disbelieving countries that support them’.
Jo Newhouse, spokesperson for Open Doors’ work in sub-Saharan Africa, says, “Messaging like this is very terrifying for [Somali believers]… who are forced to practice their faith in absolute secrecy.”
Please pray that any rumors about the spread of the virus would be quickly quashed before they can take root and lead to violence and that persecuted Somali believers will know God’s presence and protection as they experience even greater isolation and scrutiny than usual.
Eritreans are currently experiencing a 21-day lockdown. A UN special rapporteur on Human Rights in Eritrea urged the government to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading in its overcrowded jails by immediately releasing all political prisoners, low-risk offenders and others such as the sick and elderly who are particularly vulnerable to illness or death. Many prisoners of conscience – including Christians – are included in those held for many years now.
Please pray that any Christians released from prison will not have to return, and that the lockdown will be effective at curbing the spread of the virus.
In March, Sudan closed all airports, ports and land crossings. Only humanitarian, commercial and technical support shipments were excluded from the restrictions; China has donated 50 ventilators and 400,000 masks. However, rising food prices are causing distress.
Please pray that the Lord will provide for the poor and the most vulnerable in Sudan, and that local churches can continue to bless their communities.
Nigeria was able to contain the spread of Ebola in 2014 very quickly, and so the country has an aggressive biosecurity plan. However, food distribution to those in need has slowed due to Covid-19 restrictions – and, despite those restrictions, Christians are suffering from more attacks in Plateau State and Southern Kaduna, targeting believers who are staying at home.
In northern Nigeria’s Sharia-governed Kaduna, Christians say they receive rations that are six times’ smaller than Muslim families.
Please pray that God will protect our Nigerian brothers and sisters from violence, and that He will provide for the most vulnerable.
Brutal Fulani militant attacks against mostly Christian communities in Nigeria’s Plateau State continue with impunity despite #Covid19 movement restrictions in place.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) (#25)
CAR has suspended all flights, which will impact relief aid distribution: 70 per cent of health services are provided by aid groups. Armed groups have been asked to better implement ceasefire to prevent the spread, but there is continuing insecurity.
Please pray that relief aid and healthcare will get through to those who need it in CAR, and that God will pour out His peace on the nation.
BURKINA FASO (#28)
The coronavirus crisis threatens to overwhelm the health system and complicate efforts to respond. Almost 800,000 people have been displaced by near-daily jihadist attacks, which have also caused the closure of 135 health centres. Borders have been sealed and travel has been restricted to and from towns and cities with confirmed cases. Aid groups worry that this will prevent them from accessing needy people in violence affected areas. Limited testing will complicate matters. “Social isolation measures won’t be possible where people are living five or 10 to a room, or all together in small makeshift tents,” said Gustave Yamossou, emergency manager for Oxfam in Burkina Faso. “When the virus hits areas with high levels of displacement, it will spread quickly and could have a disastrous impact.”
Please pray that God will protect the vulnerable and displaced – especially those living in refugee camps and who are reliant upon aid. Please also pray that He will halt the spread of the virus in Burkina Faso.