Africa (MNN) — The United Nations began withdrawing peacekeepers from Mali on Friday, but the process could take up to six months to complete. Violence rose sharply in Mali last year, with conflict-related deaths up by 154 percent.
Mali provides a snapshot of the trend across sub-Saharan Africa. This region is the new global epicenter of terrorism, according to the Global Peace Index.
The insecurity resulting from violent attacks often leads to authoritarian government or ‘strongman’ rule. As described here:
Military officers have seized political control in countries including Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Sudan. Traditional pressure in the form of sanctions and political isolation has largely failed to dislodge them.
“As this Islamist terrorist activity picks up, the people want somebody who can fight against that terrorist group,” Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA explains.
“There is a ‘romanticism’ towards a strong leader who can say, ‘Yes, I will fight the terrorists; yes, I will protect you.’”
Strongman rule isn’t necessarily better for Christians. “Sometimes we see a combination of these strongman rulers and Islamist factors coming against the Church,” Nettleton says.
“One of the best examples of this is Omar Al Bashir, who is not the ‘strongman’ in Sudan anymore but was for more than 20 years. Whenever there were political challenges, he would wrap himself in Islamic principles and present himself as the defender of Islam. That was his way of getting the people to fall in line behind him.”
Yet hope remains. “[VOM] is providing help to Christians who’ve been displaced by some of these violent attacks,” Nettleton says.
“We’re also providing them with tools to reach their neighbors for Christ.”
Visit VOM’s website to help displaced believers. Ask the Lord to sustain Christ-followers in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Pray that God will protect them, provide for them, and meet their needs,” Nettleton requests.
“Pray that they will have discernment about their government and about what’s going on around them, just to be wise in those situations.”
Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of Sergey Pesterev/Unsplash.