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#28 in Christian persecution, Mali




Islamic oppression




Very High






Semi-presidential Republic


Interim President Bah Ndaw


Violence 15.4/16.7

Church Life 11.5/16.7

National Life 10.3/16.7

Community Life 12.7/16.7

Family Life 8.2/16.7

Private Life 9.4/16.7

What does persecution look like in Mali? What is life like for Christians?

When Islamic extremist groups took control of the northern part of the country in 2012, churches were burned down and Christians were forced to flee. The displacement that happened still affects Christians who lost their homes and whose churches were destroyed. Although some Christians and congregations have returned to the north under police protection, they still live under the threat of attack by Islamic militants.

Evangelistic activities in the north are especially risky and could lead to attacks from Islamic extremists. Christian missionaries operating in Mali also live under the constant threat of abduction and some have been kidnapped by jihadists. If their conversion from Islam to Christianity is discovered, Christians risk violence (especially in the north) and pressure from their relatives and family.

Even in the south of the country, where Christians enjoy more religious freedom, threats from Islamic extremist groups have increased. Additionally, the coup in late summer 2020 continued Mali’s political upheaval, leaving the door open for extremist elements to take root in places without strong leadership. Extremists have also used the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic to assert more control in some parts of Mali, one of Africa’s poorest countries. As these groups often particularly target Christians, this is a worrying trend for Christians, although it remains to be seen what the country’s interim leadership will mean for religious freedom.

Meet “Naomi”

“More than once, my family sent jihadists to my house to kill us [or at least intimidate us]. Their plans never worked. But one day, while my husband was on a business trip, he was gunned down. He was killed for his faith, and for marrying an ex-Muslim. His colleagues delivered the terrible news to me. [Even now], I have no idea what happened to his body.”

What has changed in Mali?

Mali rose one rank in the 2021 World Watch List from the 2020 List. Persecution remains very high in Mali, particularly violent persecution, which increased last year. In 2020, deeply disturbing attacks by jihadists left scores of Christians dead. The risk of violence for followers of Jesus in Mali is very real.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

The Christians most at risk in Mali are those who live in areas of the north largely controlled by Islamic extremist groups. All Christians are at risk in these areas, but converts from Islam are particularly targeted. Additionally, these Christians may face more pressure from community and family, who view conversion as betrayal and faith in Jesus as something that will bring shame to the family or surrounding society.

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Mali?

In partnership with the local church, Open Doors serves vulnerable Christians in Mali by providing Bibles, training pastors and believers in the various aspects of Christian life and ministry, and offering socio-economic aid to persecuted Christians. Through local partnerships, Open Doors also assists with persecution preparedness training, Bible distribution and literacy training.

Population statistic: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Pray for Mali

  • Pray for Christians still trying to rebuild their homes, churches and lives after being forced to flee in 2012. Many areas continue to be unstable, and followers of Jesus are at risk of violence.

  • Pray for the interim government that took over the country in mid-2020. Pray the new leaders will fight for and advocate for religious freedom for people of all faiths, and that they would be able to help Mali come out of the COVID-19 crisis with justice and freedom.

  • Pray for the Islamic extremist groups targeting Christians in Mali. Pray God will soften their hearts and give them ears to hear and eyes to see the glory of His gospel and grace.

  • Pray for Malian Christians who are exhausted simply from living under constant threats, discrimination and persecution. Pray for these believers to have a renewed sense of the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit would fan the flames of their faith again.

Stories from Mali

January 18, 2021

13 Christians murdered for following Jesus—every day

January 14, 2021

Betrayed, watched and martyred: 5 major trends in persecution against Christians

July 28, 2020

Violence and COVID-19 turn African Christians into ‘endangered species’

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