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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #28

MALI

 

Country rank

28

Persecution score

67.45

Last year’s rank

29

Region

Africa

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Very strong), Ethno-religious hostility (Strong), Organized corruption and crime (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

20,284,000

Christians

467,000 (2.3%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Semi-presidential republic

Leader

Interim President Bah Ndaw

In cooperation with local churches and partners, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Mali through:
• Caring for new believers
• Discipleship and leadership training
• Socio-economic development

ABOUT MALI

What does persecution look like in Mali?

When Islamic extremist groups took control of the northern part of the country in 2012, churches were burned down and Christians were 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. If their conversion from Islam to Christianity is discovered, Christians risk 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 for Christians, although it remains to be seen what the country’s interim leadership will mean for religious freedom.  

How women experience persecution

In Mali, many female converts are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse, forced divorce and, almost systematically, forced marriage. This is particularly common in northern Mali. Although there are national laws to protect women and girls in general, traditional and cultural practices, as well as gender norms, make women more vulnerable for such abuse. Abducting Christian girls and forcing them to marry Muslims is a common tactic used by Islamic extremists to spread Islam. 

When parents are separated from their children or fathers are killed or some other loss of subsistence income occurs, some Christian girls feel they have no other option but to turn to prostitution to survive. Widows are also particularly vulnerable.
As a result of such practices, some Christians are traumatized and lose confidence in the authorities. Their faith can sometimes also be affected. 

How men experience persecution

Christian men and boys in Mali are particularly subject to violent physical attack because of their faith. The widespread and prevalent poverty in one of Africa’s poorest countries can make many, particularly men and boys, vulnerable to recruitment ploys of Islamic extremist groups. Those living in rural and remote areas are especially susceptible to forced recruitment into violent groups.

What has changed this year?

Mali rose one rank in the 2021 World Watch List from the 2020 List. Persecution remains very high in Mali, particularly violent persecution, which increased last year. In 2020, deeply disturbing attacks by jihadists left scores of Christians dead. The risk of violence for followers of Jesus in Mali is very real. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

The Christians most at risk in Mali are those who live in areas of the north largely controlled by Islamic extremist groups. All Christians are at risk in these areas, but converts from Islam are particularly targeted. Additionally, these Christians may face more pressure from community and family, who view conversion as betrayal and faith in Jesus as something that will bring shame to the family or surrounding society.  

How can I help Christians in Mali?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Mali?

In partnership with the local church, Open Doors serves vulnerable Christians in Mali by providing Bibles, training pastors and believers in the various aspects of Christian life and ministry, and offering socio-economic aid to persecuted Christians. Through local partnerships, Open Doors also assists with persecution preparedness training, Bible distribution and literacy training. 

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Mali, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for Christians still trying to rebuild their homes, churches and lives after being forced to flee in 2012. Many areas continue to be unstable, and followers of Jesus are at risk of violence.

-Pray for the interim government that took over the country in mid-2020. Pray the new leaders will fight for and advocate for religious freedom for people of all faiths, and that they would be able to help Mali come out of the COVID-19 crisis with justice and freedom.

-Pray for the Islamic extremist groups targeting Christians in Mali. Pray God will soften their hearts and give them ears to hear and eyes to see the glory of His gospel and grace.

-Pray for Malian Christians who are exhausted simply from living under constant threats, discrimination and persecution. Pray for these believers to have a renewed sense of the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit would fan the flames of their faith again. 

 

A PRAYER FOR MALI

Heavenly Father, we pray for Your people in Mali. We ask You to sustain them and give them courage. We ask You to ease the suffering of the wounded, give hope to the despairing and provide rest for the weary. We pray You would protect our brothers and sisters who are at risk of being attacked, and we pray You would 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.