RLPB 427. Mali: jihadists attack churches in Mopti
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
IDOP 2017: Sunday 5 or 12 November.
PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED IS INTEGRAL TO WORSHIP
God is at work, sanctifying the Church and knitting us together as ONE. He is answering prayers, fulfilling promises and redeeming even suffering itself. Through it all he is ‘making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth’ (Ephesians 3:9-10 ESV). For the believer or church with faith, intercessory prayer for the suffering persecuted Church is not an optional add-on. Rather, intercessory prayer for the suffering persecuted Church is as integral to worship as it is to this great work of God to unite all things in Christ.
SPECIAL PRAYER REQUEST: CRISIS PUBLISHING INITIATIVE
Intercessory prayer for the suffering persecuted Church would not be possible without the information that comes to us from dedicated Christian reporters, researchers, authors and publishers. Not only do they provide the suffering Church with a voice, they provide the global Church with information rarely found in mainstream media. Many report from the ‘front-lines’ or even from ‘behind enemy lines’ at great personal risk in the hope that their stories will be received by religious liberty advocates, analysts, activists, journalists, authors and intercessors the world over. To aid and develop this work, the inaugural Crisis Publishing Initiative conference will be held in Sopron, Hungary, from 15 to 18 October. Nearly 100 Christian writers from some 24 countries (East, West, Africa, Asia and the Middle East) have registered to attend in order to learn from and network with other Christian writers and publishers.
Elizabeth Kendal will be presenting one workshop on ‘Global Trends in Persecution’ and another (shared with author Mindy Belz) on ‘Understanding the Middle East’. On Tuesday 17 October Elizabeth will present the plenary address: ‘A Voice for the Suffering Church’. For the full list of speakers and topics, see Crisis Publishing Initiative
Please pray for God’s gracious and generous blessing on this conference and all who attend. May the suffering Church never be without a voice or without support. ‘I do not ask for these [disciples] only , but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one …’ (emphasis mine) (Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. John 17).
Anneta V., a religious liberty expert on Russia and Central Asia, will be the guest contributor to the RLPB ministry over the next three weeks.
MALI: JIHADISTS ATTACK CHURCHES IN MOPTI
In early 2012, in the wake of Libya’s ‘Arab Spring’, bands of ethnic Tuareg militants and Islamic jihadists swept into Mali’s vast desert north. After first exploiting and then devouring the Tuareg separatist insurgency, the al-Qaeda-linked jihadists seized control of the Arab-Berber north. Though Malian and French forces did eventually regain control of the territory, the jihadists have remained entrenched in the northern regions known to the Tuareg as ‘Azawad’. Though located in Mali’s more populous and fertile African south, Mopti region borders the north, making it a ‘front-line’ region where jihadists routinely wage hit-and-run attacks on security personnel. Not only has violence escalated markedly in recent months, a new phenomenon has arisen: the jihadists are targeting churches.
Monsignor Edmond Dembele, secretary-general of the Malian bishops’ conference, reports that in late September and early October at least three churches in the diocese of Mopti received ‘visits’ from jihadists. In Dobara, jihadists smashed their way into the church from which they removed crosses and furnishings which they piled up outside and burned. In Bodwal, jihadists drove worshipping Catholics out of their church, warning them that if they ever return to ring the bells or pray, they will be killed. Christians comprise a mere 2.6 percent of Mali’s population and Mgr Dembele is deeply concerned about the lack of security. ‘What worries us,’ he said, ‘is that these groups had not targeted Christians up till now. The situation has changed in the last few months and for this reason we have raised the alarm.’
The attacks on churches in Mopti region is doubtless connected to a developing crisis. Islamic jihadist attacks on Malian troops, UN peacekeepers and French forces have more than doubled since June. Most of the attacks have been claimed by the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims [Jama’a Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM)], a coalition of the region’s most powerful al-Qaeda affiliates. This is the same group that released a video on 1 July entitled ‘The Correct Equation’, in which it puts forth the Islamic doctrine of retaliation (essentially an eye for an eye) [see RLPB 413 (5 July)]. JNIM also used the video to provide proof that they were holding six Western hostages, most of them Christians whom JNIM had accused of working to convert Muslims to Christianity. [The South African hostage, Stephen McGown (who converted to Islam), was released in August.] The video’s release was timed to coincide with the launch in Bamako, the Malian capital, of a 5000-strong multinational force to tackle JNIM. The multinational force is expected to be fully operational by the end of October. Jihadist violence is destined to escalate in line with the promise of ‘The Correct Equation’. The Battle for Mali looms. The situation facing Mali’s churches and JNIM’s Christian hostages is dire.
PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:
* protect and preserve his precious Church in Mali; may the Lord himself provide security for the churches in Mopti region which is especially vulnerable to jihadist terror.
* sustain, comfort and deliver JNIM’s Christian hostages; may the Lord Almighty both rescue and repay. (See Isaiah 40:10; 59:14-19; and Matthew 10:29-30) [For names see RLPB 413 (5 July) – only minus McGown].
* insert himself into the looming Battle for Mali; may he come like a ‘pent-up flood’ or ‘rushing stream’ (Isaiah 59:19) and fight with those who fight against evil.
* pour his Spirit afresh into Mali’s Churches so believers will (1) commit to prayer and (2) step out in faith and with boldness to share the Good News with Muslims; and may the Spirit also be powerfully at work in Mali’s harvest fields.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
IN MALI, JIHADISTS ATTACK CHURCHES IN MOPTI
In 2012, in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, al-Qaeda-linked Islamic jihadists invaded and seized control of Mali’s vast desert north. Though Malian and French Forces did eventually regain control, the jihadists have remained entrenched. Though located in Mali’s more populous and fertile African south, Mopti region borders the north, making it vulnerable to jihadist infiltration. While the jihadists generally attack security personnel, recently they have started targeting churches. Mgr Dembele knows of three churches in Mopti diocese that have been attacked, and where property was destroyed and believers threatened with death. Since June, the terror group JNIM has more than doubled its attacks. JNIM is holding five Christian missionaries hostage. The Battle for Mali looms. Tensions are high; the situation is dire. Please pray for Mali and its Church.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).