Mali (MNN) — Disaster was narrowly averted for a local congregation in Gao, Mali, on January 12, when military personnel patrolling the area that Sunday morning discovered explosives behind one of the doors of their meeting place.
After police ushered frightened parishioners to safety, French army personnel were able to safely diffuse the devices. In 2012, Mali seemed to be another state on the verge of succumbing to an Islamic takeover.
But in January 2013, the French military intervened and helped to stabilize the situation, at least temporarily. Sadly for the Christian community, the infrastructure of Christianity in the north has been largely destroyed. Believers who are slowly trickling back to the north are forced to meet in school classrooms because churches have been either looted or destroyed.
An Open Doors representative in the area comments, “Building up a Christian presence again will be difficult, and the Christians who fled the north are afraid to return.” Even though most Malian Christians, who make up less than 5% of the population, live in the southern region, they still feel threatened by Islamists in the north and fear a new uprising.
This month’s bomb threat has left church members shaken, but thankful for God’s protection. Please pray for this small community of believers.
The persecution doesn’t stop there.
A pastor from northern Mali, who was almost killed by Islamic extremists, thanks God for saving his life.
In January, he needed to visit Bamako for a national pastors’ conference. Traveling to the conference, he had two options. He could take a free United Nations flight out of Timbuktu or pay to take an earlier flight.
Without understanding the reason for it, he sensed an urgency to leave the city as soon as possible. So he paid the money for the flight and left immediately.
No sooner had the pastor arrived in Bamako than he started receiving calls from Christians, Muslim friends, and others in Timbuktu, informing him that they had become aware of a plan by Islamic terrorists to kidnap and kill him that same day. The terrorists are offended by his ministry, deeming it “dangerous.” His sudden departure foiled the plan.
In the context of the mounting violence in the northern region, the return of the jihadists to the Timbuktu area, and news of the plans against him, the pastor has decided not to return to Timbuktu despite his desire to continue the work in this desert region of Mali.
He is now looking to settle in another region, but Islamic persecution of Christians is on the increase across the country. Please pray for the pastor as he resettles his family and ministry.
Mali is ranked #40 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.