This month marks the one-year anniversary of a fragile peace accord between the Mali government and Tuareg separatists. But after twelve months to make progress, you wouldn’t know it.
French forces had allegedly driven extremists out of northern Mali, but the attacks have not abated. Several extremist groups are still very active in northern Mali, with roots traced back to al-Qaeda. And they are causing problems for everyone.
Last week it was reported thatfive UN peacekeepers in central Mali were killed in an extremist attack. That brings the death toll to 60 from The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali, making it the most dangerous active peacekeeping expedition by the UN.
The active extremist insurgencies are still embroiled in clashes with authorities–firing rockets at peacekeeping battalions, blocking roads between cities, and controlling unchecked areas through fear.
Christians have also been targeted. In December 2015–six months after the peace accord–three young men were shot and murdered outside the gates of a Christian radio station in Timbuktu.
“I know personally the three people who have been killed in Timbuktu,” shares Mikail*, a leader with Trans World Radio. “One of them was very close to me who was killed last December outside of the gate of the radio station. But we continue to pray…. Things are in the hand of the Lord.”
The Malian population is 94.8 percent Muslim and 2.4 percent Christian. While the government has no official religion, Mikail says it’s not easy for believers in the country. “We have many Christians who still live in northern Mali…. The mosques never ask Muslims to [commit violence], but it comes from this perilous group of al-Qaeda.”
As a counterpoint to the climate of fear and tenuousness in the country, Trans World Radio offers an alternative message of hope with their programming broadcasts. Stations in Mali choose to receive Trans World Radio programs, and most of them are not even Christian stations.
“We are publishing programs to reach Muslims and also programs on peace and reconciliation. It’s aired in Timbuktu and over areas of northern Mali,” says Mikail.
“We try to tell people in the area that God loves them and He wants them to live in peace with one another. That’s the message from the Gospel that we share with people.”
During this month of Ramadan in a predominantly Muslim country, it is a time of introspection for Malian Muslims. There is more fasting and prayer for the religion than any other time of the year, especially for moderate Muslims.
Mikail shares, “I am from Mali myself and came from an Islamic family, from Muslim background. So for me it is a daily burden to pray for my people.”
Here’s how you can pray:
- Pray for Muslims in Mali and around the world to find true peace and understanding in the God of the Bible.
- Pray for the Malian government to gain control in areas where extremist groups are causing havoc through fear.
- Pray for this time of Ramadan to bring reconciliation among Muslim and Christian neighbors in Mali.
- Pray for the Christians to be protected from threats and fear, and instead to find the confidence to share the hope of the Gospel with others.
“We know it’s a time of pressure in the area, we know Christians can be in insecurity, but it’s our goal, our objective, our call to be witnesses in this area of Mali. And that is true not only in Mali, but also in other countries where Christians are a minority,” says Mikail. “That’s what we are doing at Trans World Radio. We encourage reconciliation, we encourage peace, and we encourage people to come to the true God.”