Christians among 5 million people displaced in the Sahel
The deteriorating security situation in the greater Sahel region is causing immense human suffering.
In a recent statement, the UN said a record 29 million people in six countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, northeastern Nigeria, Chad and northern Cameroon) need humanitarian assistance as they face “unparalleled” insecurity and growing hunger. They say some 5.3 million people have been displaced, thousands of schools have been closed across the region, and 1.6 million children will likely suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
Large parts of western Sahel have been plagued by violence that started with the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali in 2012. France led an intervention against the armed groups, which scattered and regrouped before taking their campaign into central Mali in 2015 and then into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. But “the conflict in Sahel is growing wider, more complex and involving more armed actors,” said Xavier Creach, Sahel coordinator for the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) and deputy director for West and Central Africa.
Many of these countries are featured on the 2021 World Watch List. One Open Doors’ local spokesperson says of Christians “Aid agencies play an important role in delivering help, but they cannot reach everyone. Often, Christians also miss out on aid, especially when it is delivered via local entities. Our brothers and sisters need urgent help to survive, and they depend on the goodwill of family, fellow Christian compatriots, and the larger Body of Christ to make it through.”
“Open Doors wants to ensure that the Church remains resilient despite the horrific circumstances they are forced into, by offering them urgent physical support in the form of food aid and physical support in the form of encouragement and trauma care. Open Doors calls on the international Christian community to join us in rallying around these beleaguered Christian communities.”
The situation in the western Sahel is expected to deteriorate after the death of Chadian president Idriss Deby, says Al Jazeera. He died Apr 22 of injuries sustained while commanding troops fighting rebels of a new rebel group, Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT).
Chad has built a reputation for possessing the most powerful military in the G5 Sahel, an alliance also comprised of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger that was created to tackle armed groups operating in the region. Shortly after his death, on Thursday, the Burkinabe newspaper Sidwaya reported that Chadian troops with “pick-ups, tanks and personnel carriers” had been spotted leaving the Burkinabe section of the tri-border region, apparently to return to Chad.
Similar reports in the days before Deby’s death had also said Chadian military units deployed abroad were being brought back to help defend Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, from FACT.
In all these situations, “civilians end up paying the price as they face an increasing number of deadly attacks, gender-based violence, extortion or intimidation, and are forced to flee, often multiple times,” Creach says.
Please pray for peace in the Sahel
Pray for the Lord’s protection and provision for His Church and that He will continue to build His Body in this part of the world.
Pray for grace for Christians to continue to be witnesses for Christ in their circumstances.
Pray for the Lord’s protection over our teams and that they may receive wisdom as they work to strengthen the Church facing these circumstances.