The 5-5-5 Challenge: A Story of Persecution in Mali
Before last year, Mali was a country with minimal Christian persecution. However, the situation changed with the capture of the Northern part of the country by Tuareg separatist rebels and Islamists fighters, and the proclamation of the creation of the independent state of Azawad in Northern Mali (April 2012).The Islamists soon established an Islamic state with a stern Sharia regime in the North.
Most Christians fled before the Islamists took over. In the meantime, they destroyed churches and other Christian buildings in Timbuktu, Gao and other areas, wanting to eradicate all traces of Christianity.
They also were very hard on traditional Muslims, killing people, amputating limbs and destroying Sufi sanctuaries. Since the fighting started in March 2012, tens if not hundreds of thousands of Malians have fled the North to the South or neighbouring countries.
The future of the Church in Northern Mali is very much unknown. The presence and infrastructure of Christianity has been largely destroyed. It will take a long time to build it up again, even if the Islamist fighters were successfully driven out of the North.
Secondly, it is unknown if the international forces will succeed in driving away the occupants from Northern Mali. If not, it will be very difficult to build up a Christian presence in the North again. The future of the Church in Southern Mali may be negatively affected by the rising influence in Malian politics of religious leaders from the High Islamic Council.
Even if the occupation of the North comes to a halt, the tendency for religious radicalization in Malian society may continue, negatively affecting the lives of Christians and their churches.