The Church in Southern Chad has asked for prayer as they face the “Yondo” season–a much-dreaded African traditional religions initiation ritual for boys and young men that usually takes place every 10 years. Yondo was supposed to happen last year, but an economic crisis in the country caused the program to be postponed to this year. The initiation season runs until the end of August.
What Happens Before and During Yondo
One of our ministry partners paints a picture of what often happens in preparation for the secret initiation:
“Before the Yondo, recruits often target families with young male children who have not yet been initiated,” explains an Open Doors field worker in Chad. “They will storm the compound and take away the child (sometimes even as young as 7), whether or not the parents give consent. Young boys can even be snatched from the streets during this time and taken into the bush to undergo the forced initiation.”
But there are also cases where youths are forced by their own families to undergo secret initiation rituals.
“My mother is Christian but under the influence of my father, not a believer, she accepted the decision that I should go for initiation,” one young man lamented.
Although Yondo is secret and no initiate is allowed to talk about it,enough is known to terrify those likely to be called, reports The New York Times.
Males are taken into the bush for a period of 45 days. But the rainy season; which makes most roads impassable, extend the initiation of the present contingent for several weeks. In the bush, they are under the authority of an initiator, who exacts total obedience.
Naked except for loincloths, they are subjected to a sort of trial by ordeal to “rid them of their foreign failings and make them fit for authentically Chadian society.” The ordeals are known to include floggings, burning with coals, scarring, sexual indignities, mock burials, drugging and acts of humiliation. Anthropologists have reported that Yondo causes deaths or lasting damage.
‘The church will be destroyed’
Church leaders also report an increase of threats against them during Yondo.
“Last May the chief warned us that once the Yondo starts, the church will be destroyed,” says Silas, a church leader in southern Chad. “According to them, Christians have broken their customs by explaining in church what happens during initiation in the bush.”
In July, another church leader was threatened.
“They told me that if they discover that their initiation is disrupted or not fully attended because of what we tell the Christians in church, we will have them to deal with,” the pastor reported. “In some areas, small churches are burnt down regularly because of this. Even if we talk to authorities, they do nothing to protect us.”
To protect Christian boys from the initiation, denominations organize church camps for youths away from their hometowns until the end of August when the season ends. It is a time that churches can invest in the discipleship of the youths.
One young man shared his fears: “My parents are in the area, and it worries me. I wonder whether they are not going to come and pick me up to undergo initiation. I’m afraid of that happening.”
Praying with the Church in Chad
- Pray for God’s protection over these Christian youth camps and for a fruitful time of discipleship and fellowship for the youths. Pray that God will use this moment to strengthen these youths in their faith and use them to touch those who are under Satan’s yoke.
- Please pray for the Lord’s protection over churches and their leaders during this time.
- Syncretism in the church is common, and it is often a temptation for Christians to take part in the Yondo to avoid persecution. One young man said, “Pray for me and for all who are here that God will protect us in this place and will enlighten my parents who call themselves Christians and who are always in the tradition; that they will to see the truth in the face and ask God’s forgiveness.”
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