How many Christians are there in Mali?
There are about 476,000 Christians in Mali, which is a small percentage of the population of more than 20 million.
How are Christians persecuted in Mali?
Violent extremist attacks continue unabated across Mali. Ten years ago in northern Mali, Christians were forced to flee when Islamic extremist groups took control of the region. Though some Christians have trickled back in with police protection, the threat of attack still hangs over them, making evangelistic activities especially risky. Christian missionaries live in constant fear of abduction by extremists. Anyone who converts from Islam risks violence and pressure from their relatives if their faith is discovered.
Christian men and boys are particularly subject to death threats and attacks because of their faith. They may also be abducted by extremist groups and killed, devastating their families and fellow Christians, thereby multiplying the trauma. Christian men who convert often face social rejection, loss of inheritance rights, and have no access to government aid for education.
Female converts in Mali are vulnerable to threats, violence, sexual abuse and even murder at the hands of outraged community or family members. Traditional and cultural practices overrule Mali's national laws that protect women who leave Islam.
The country's former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, resigned in August 2020, just hours after armed soldiers seized him from his home in a dramatic power grab following months of protests demanding his removal from the position. He also announced that his government and the National Assembly would be dissolved, to further quell the country’s turmoil amid an eight-year Islamic insurgency and the growing coronavirus pandemic.
“More than once, my family sent jihadists to my house to kill [or at least intimidate] us. But one day, while my husband was on a business trip, he was gunned down. He was killed for his faith… I have no idea what happened to his body.” Naomi, Mali
What’s life like for Christians in Mali?
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 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.”
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Mali?
Though levels of violence have slightly decreased, pressure from the community and against the church have both risen. The situation in Mali has become complex, and it can be difficult to distinguish clearly between religious-based and ethnic-based violence.
How can I help Christians in Mali?
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 in Mali to provide persecution survival training, Bibles, literacy training, leadership training and socio-economic aid to persecuted believers.
Lord Jesus, encourage the hearts of displaced believers in Mali who cry out to You daily from places they never thought they would be living. Bless them with fellowship among strong Christians and meet their needs. Help Mali’s government leaders regain control of the country, and disband and drive out these extremist groups that threaten the nation’s peace. Open the eyes of Open Doors local partners to any believers in need and guide them as they bring relief and refreshment. Amen.