National mourning ends in Niger; Sahel crisis continues

By January 7, 2021

Niger (MNN) — Three days of national mourning came to an end yesterday in Niger. Weekend attacks near the border with Mali left more than 100 casualties and forced at least 1,000 people to flee.

It’s the latest chapter of the Sahel crisis – a multi-nation emergency the UN calls “one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement and protection crises.” If you didn’t hear about it until now, you aren’t alone.

“We have lots going on in America right now politically that sort of ‘sucks the air out of the room’ from a media perspective. But this is a situation where more than 100 people have been killed in these attacks,” Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs USA says.

“It’s certainly something that the world should at least notice.”

Map of the Sahel region.
(Wikimedia Commons)

A quick Google search can bring you up to speed, but you probably won’t find the Sahel crisis on mainstream media. More about that here. Nonetheless, it presents an increasing threat to believers in Niger.

What’s going on in Niger?

Niger’s latest attacks took place near the Mali border. Details are hard to come by, and no terrorists have claimed responsibility yet. However, “in looking at the reports, it seems like whoever the attackers were, there is a desire to create division ethnically; to pit different tribal groups against each other,” Nettleton notes.

Niger is relatively safe for Christians – “We don’t identify it as either a hostile or restricted nation,” Nettleton says – but its neighbors have more unrest than they can handle. “Niger [is] in sort of a ‘pocket’ surrounded by radical Islam,” he explains.

“There are a lot of persecutors all around Niger [and] it seems like some of that is now starting to creep across that border.”

(Photo courtesy of Zoriah via Flickr)

Jihadist violence is becoming increasingly problematic in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the 2020 Global Terrorism Index. Three of the ten countries with “the largest increase in terrorism” can be found in the Sahel region:

The expansion of ISIL affiliates into sub-Saharan Africa led to a surge in terrorism in many countries in the region… The largest increase in deaths from terrorism occurred in Burkina Faso, where deaths rose from 86 to 593, a 590 percent increase.

How to help

Pray for believers in Niger as violence begins to spread. Instability can lead to Gospel opportunities, so pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

“Pray for a season of fruitful ministry. This upheaval can be a time of speaking to eternal things,” Nettleton says.

“It’s a key time to pray for the nation of Niger. There are churches there; there are Gospel workers. Let’s pray for God’s protection over them.”



Indiscriminate attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria are causing immense suffering. A violent campaign is being waged against innocent civilians who are being killed, chased, enrolled or enslaved. (Photo, caption ©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie via Flickr)