Religious Pressure Increases in Chad
Chad is a majority-Muslim country. Although there is religious freedom and the rule of President Idris Debby Itno has been regarded as bringing greater religious liberty for Christians, the majority of government positions, including military positions, are filled by Muslims. These officials often use their positions to exert pressure on Christians. Nominal Christians are especially susceptible to falling prey to this pressure.
According to the Joshua Project, a little over 35% of the citizens of Chad are professing Christians, but only 11% are evangelical. One need only glance at the surrounding countries to understand the pressures faced by those who identify as Christians, especially new Christians who have not been sufficiently discipled. To the north lies Libya, to the east Sudan, to the south are Central African Republic (CAR) and Cameroon, and to the west Niger and Nigeria. Of the six adjacent countries, four are on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List (WWL). Two of them are in the top ten and all four in the top twenty. Although Chad in 2015 was not listed on the WWL, one can easily see that the pressure on believers is sometimes great.
Researchers have reported an increase in radical Islamic influence, including a growing presence of Boko Haram militants in Chad. There is also a considerable rise in pressure on Christians from African traditional religions. Some of the critical issues the church in Chad is facing are:
- Being unprepared to face persecution and engage with Islam and African traditional religions
- Lack of discipleship following conversions
- Lack of focus on economic advancement for impoverished Christians in churches. One pastor explained this well. “If we Christians do not apply strategies to positively change our economy, no one would pay the required attention to our message.”
- Lack of church leaders with real servanthood
One example of the critical issues the church is facing is evident in the Christian community of Bakaba in Yamoudo, a sub-division in Goré on the Chadian border with Central African Republic (CAR). Local sources have told Open Doors that Islamic radical activity in the area has negatively impacted this Christian community. Since the start of the Central African Republic (CAR) crisis in 2013, Muslim radicals have been passing through the area on their way to and from CAR, wreaking havoc on the Christians in the area.
Armed attackers have been intimidating the Christians, burning down their churches, destroying farms and killing herds of cattle belonging to Christians. Muslims reportedly even tried to build a mosque in the place of a destroyed church, but Christians have successfully opposed their plans.
The Christians say they have lost hope in the local authorities who seem to not be doing anything to protect them. They also feel abandoned by the larger Body of Christ in Chad, which has remained quiet about the mistreatment of the Bakada Christians.
Christians in this community have told Open Doors sources that Muslims have been using the harsh economic circumstances of local Christians to shrewdly lure many into Islam. Local Christians say Muslim religious leaders (Imams) are receiving large sums of money and other materials (clothing, etc.) from Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait which they use to attract Christians to Islam.
Due to a lack of proper discipleship, many Christians in this area (Muslim Background Believers), who have felt abandoned by God and by their brothers, have fallen for these material enticements. Muslims are keeping such a close eye on these “returnees” that it is impossible for local Christians to reach out to them. A local source stated that, “They have no means to come back to Christ, even if they wanted to.”
Open Doors is working with the local church to address the critical issues facing the church through various kinds of training.
Father, as we lift up fellow Christians in Chad, we begin with the pastors and other leaders of Your church there; that training will be effective in teaching them how to disciple new believers and prepare their churches for the strong influences that war against them, both from within and without. We especially pray today for the Christians of Bakaba; that You will strengthen them in the Word and Spirit, to grow in faith regardless of the pressures around them. Thank You for the training work of Open Doors there, and we pray that You will use this training to encourage and strengthen the church. And, as we consider the major discrimination toward Christians in some areas of Chad, we call on You to open the eyes of the local authorities to the injustice and to convict them of the need to protect their people. We pray for the church at large in Chad; that as their eyes are opened to the plight of those living in areas of persecution, they will stand alongside their brothers to advocate on their behalf and reach out in mercy. May Your people in Chad be a beacon of light and hope to those who do not know You, not only in Chad but in the adjoining nations; that Your Name will be lifted high all over North Africa. In the Name of Jesus, in whom we live and move and have our being, Amen.