Youth in the Sahel face paralyzing poverty

By December 10, 2015

Sahel (MNN) — A United Nations article states that up to 41 million youth in the Sahel region will face poverty, creating fertile ground for radicalization.

(Image courtesy Baptist Global Response)

(Image courtesy Baptist Global Response)

The Sahel is a region between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanian Savannah. It’s 3,400 miles long stretching from the Atlantic ocean to the red sea. It spans across the countries of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea.

The U.N. is concerned that people in this region will be more susceptible to recruitment from extremist groups because of their poverty and lack of education, especially since the Sahel region has been in cyclic hunger. And the cycle doesn’t look like it’s going to break any time soon.

Baptist Global Response Executive Director Jeff Palmer doesn’t believe poverty is key to radicalization. Instead, he thinks there is more to the issue. “People aren’t radicalized because of poverty. People who come from wealthy backgrounds can follow the same route.”

Image Courtesy BGR via Facebook

(Image courtesy of BGR via Facebook)

Palmer explains, “I think what solves a problem like this is a change of heart, the change of people, the change of worldview of who they are and where they are in terms of a relationship with God.”

In other words, he wants people to “take off the United Nations and Global Citizen hat and…put on the hat of the church and of a follower of Christ.”

But how?

“They can pray. They can give. And actually we have opportunities in certain areas and certain times for people to go and be a part of doing something about this hands-on in that part of the world,” says Palmer.

After all, what better way to tell people about Christ than by living like Christ? “If we help people and help them live with dignity, we do it in a way that also facilitates the sharing of the Gospel,” explains Palmer.

Through its partners, BGR works to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The organization hands out food, teaches health care classes, and teaches livelihood skills training in the Sahel region.

Palmer says, “Interweaving into all of that is ‘Yes, we’re helping you now, but here is Someone and here is something. Here’s a truth that can help you not just for now but forever and ever and ever throughout eternity.'”

“People deserve to have the chance at an abundant life,” explains Palmer. “We believe that abundant life is not abundant in terms of riches and material things. But abundance is the ability to feed their family, to educate their children, the basic right-to-life type things.”

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