Pastor Hammadi (not his real name), a church leader in Timbuktu, northern Mali, is thankful to be alive. In January, he needed to visit Bamako for the national pastors’ conference for his church. Traveling to the conference, he had two options: He could take a free United Nations flight out of Timbuktu, or pay to take an earlier OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). Without understanding the reason for it, he sensed an urgency to leave the city as soon as possible. So he paid the money for the OCHA flight, and he left immediately.
No sooner had he arrived in Bamako than he started receiving calls from Christians, Muslim friends and Minusma officers in Timbuktu informing him that they had become aware of a plan by Islamists to kidnap and kill him that very same day. The Islamists have been offended by his ministry, deeming it “dangerous”. Thankfully, his sudden departure foiled the plan.
In the context of the mounting violence in the northern region of Mali, the return of the jihadists to the Timbuktu area, and news of the plans against him, Pastor Hammadi has decided not to return to Timbuktu despite his desire to continue the work in this desert region. He is now looking to settle in another region of Mali, but Islamist sentiments seem to be on the increase across the country. Please pray for Pastor Hammadi as he resettles his family and ministry.
Mali is #40 on the 2015 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution. After the French military intervention in January 2013, the threat of radical Islamic groups was averted, at least temporarily, but in the north, there is still no normal church life possible. Presence and infrastructure of Christianity have been largely destroyed, and the Christians who fled are afraid to return. Those who do return, find their properties are occupied by Muslims. Even though most Malian Christians live in the southern part of the country, they feel threatened by the radical Islamic groups in the north.
Father, we thank You for Pastor Hammadi among the people of Timbuktu, and we pray for that work to continue in his absence. We pray for your protection and guidance as he considers a move to another region. Show him where Your Spirit is at work so that You might use him in planting the seed of the gospel. We pray for Your protection over his family, as well, and that You will provide for the logistical and financial details of such a big move. We pray that You will grant courage to him and his family as they continue to serve You in Mali, and that You will refresh and encourage them daily from Your Word and through our prayers on their behalf. In the name of Jesus, who even now is preparing a place of ministry for Pastor Hammadi, Amen.