Tuesday, April 10, 2012

RLPB 154. MALI: Christians flee imposition of Sharia

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 154 | Wed 11 Apr 2012

(plus a Nigeria update)
By Elizabeth Kendal

Having seized the capitals of the three main northern provinces in three days -- Kidal, on 30 March, Gao on 31 March and Timbuktu on 1 April -- the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA) declared it had achieved its military goal. (NMLA is the ethnic Tuareg rebel group that has seized control of northern Mali.) Consequently, on Thursday 5 April the NMLA announced a ceasefire. Whilst the NMLA has been fighting for political ends -- specifically for autonomy in their homeland -- they have been aided by Islamic jihadists who have been fighting for religious ends, specifically an Islamic state where Sharia (Islamic) Law is enforced. No sooner had the NMLA achieved its goal, the jihadists of Ansar Dine hoisted the black flag of al-Qaeda and announced the imposition of Sharia. Some 100 Nigerian Boko Haram militants who assisted in the capture of Gao have also established a presence there. Sources advise there are four distinct flags flying in Goa: the NMLA, Boko Haram, Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). However, it is the jihadists calling the shots, not the professedly secular NMLA.

The Tuareg rebellion has left northern Mali devastated. There have been reports of pack rapes as well as massive destruction and looting. The UN's office of humanitarian affairs reports: 'Malians in the northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu are hiding in their homes in fear following the weekend takeover by rebel groups, during which hospitals, health clinics, government buildings, and most NGO and UN offices and warehouses were looted, and in some cases destroyed, leaving the bulk of humanitarian operations suspended.' (IRIN, 3 April.) Head of the Malian office of Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Julia McDade, told IRIN: 'Everyone [in Gao] is in hiding, everyone's vehicles have been stolen … every single office has been ransacked.' Caritas Mali reported that its local office in Gao was destroyed along with the local church which served Gao's 200-strong Catholic community.

Reportedly, Ansar Dine has distributed leaflets containing a contact number saying that anyone who feels threatened or endangered should call Ansar Dine for assistance. One resident reports being on a bus of families fleeing Gao that was ambushed by Tuareg militants who were robbing everyone. People called the Ansar Dine 'hotline' and jihadists were quickly on the scene. The passengers then watched in horror as the jihadists slit the throat of one of the Tuareg militants to cries of 'Allahu Akbar'.

The shocking violence and destruction, but especially the Islamist threat, has forced virtually the entire Christian population of northern Mali to flee for their lives. The Guardian received an unconfirmed report that the Christian prefect of the town of Bourem had been executed along with his whole family. More than 90 percent of Timbuktu's approximately 300 Christians have fled according to Baptist Pastor Nock Ag Info Yattara, whose congregation has worshipped in Timbuktu since the 1950s. He added that not one of its 205 people is left. In Timbuktu, Ansar Dine is controlling the city and its military base, while the NMLA is camped out at the airport. 'What I deplore,' laments Ousmane Halle, the mayor of Timbuktu, 'is the departure of the Christian community . . . I cannot guarantee their safety. And these are people that have lived side by side with us for centuries.' (See AP)

For more details see Religious Liberty Monitoring


* guarantee the safety of his displaced and threatened people and supply all their needs: spiritual, emotional and physical (food, medical supplies and refuge).

* 'frustrate' (NIV) / 'thwart' (NASB) the way of the wicked (Psalm 146:9c) so that northern Mali will not become an Islamic state and al-Qaeda sanctuary; may he intervene to restore democracy and liberty to northern Mali so that the light of Christ might shine there openly.

* redeem the present sufferings for his own ends, turning the schemes of the wicked 'upside down' (Psalm 146:9c KJV), so that falsehood might be exposed and rejected, truth might be illuminated and lifted up and doors long closed might be opened for gospel ministry.

'The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.' (Psalm 146:9 ESV)


Ethnic Tuareg rebels have seized control of northern Mali. Whilst the main rebel group, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, is professedly secular, its ally, a jihadist faction known as Ansar Dine, has wrested control, hoisted the black flag of al-Qaeda and announced the imposition of Sharia Law. The Tuareg rebellion has devastated northern Mali. There have been reports of pack rapes and violence, whilst the massive destruction and widespread looting has left the humanitarian aid sector totally crippled. Christian charities and churches have been destroyed. With Christians being targeted, virtually the entire Christian population of northern Mali has been forced to flee. Please pray for the Church in Mali.



On Easter Sunday a Boko Haram bomber attempted to get access to the 1st Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) on Gwari Road, Kaduna. However, his car was turned away at the barricades despite his having a military uniform folded on the back seat. As he drove away, the massive bomb exploded outside a hotel opposite the church. So far 39 people have died, most of whom were Okada (motor-cycle taxi) drivers parked at the hotel. The massive explosion damaged the ECWA Good News Church and the nearby All Nations Christian Assembly Church, blowing in the windows and destroying fans and roofing. However, the churchgoers worshipping at Easter services inside were protected. Thank the Lord while continuing to pray that he will protect his people (Psalm 125:2) and frustrate the schemes of the wicked (Psalm 146:9).