Islamist expansion in Sahel threatens Christians

 Sahel/West Africa (MNN) — Members from the United Nations Security Council are visiting the Sahel this weekend to push for stability. Violent attacks increased eightfold in the region between 2015 and 2020.

“It’s being [called] ‘Africa’s Afghanistan’ because the French soldiers occupying [the region] and keeping some levels of peace are starting to withdraw,” Voice of the Martyrs Canada CEO Floyd Brobbel says.

“We saw how in Afghanistan with the U.S. pullout, and other groups pulling out as well, that creates a power vacuum where Islamic jihadists come in and seek to take control.”

France announced this summer it would withdraw 2,000 troops from the Sahel region by early 2022. Approximately 5,000 French troops are deployed across five countries under Operation Barkhane.

“More attacks” coming

Tribal tensions, fewer natural resources, and rising extremism create a “perfect storm” of instability in the Sahel. As described here, Islamists use this chaos to their advantage:

“West Africa is particularly vulnerable to extremism and provides fertile ground for jihadist groups to expand, given the combination of weak governance institutions, limited state capacity, corruption, widespread poverty, and ethnic tensions. … As the Sahel region becomes the latest scene for jihadist infighting, this has serious implications not just for jihadist operations against local and foreign troops, but more importantly for local civilian populations.”

Militants enforce Sharia law in Mali.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Islamic State and al-Qaeda militants are behind West Africa’s latest surge in violence. See our full coverage here.

These Islamists hunt for Christians and other religious minorities in every territory they enter.

“There’s a lot of unrest already in the region. Islamists come in and use that to push their brand of Islam, their extreme form of Islam. They will target, then, other Muslim groups or minorities that are not following their brand of Islam,” Brobbel says.

“As they (extremists) gain more influence in the area, we certainly will see more attacks on Christians and churches.”

Ask the Lord to protect His followers in the Sahel. Pray many will choose to stay in the region.

“We need to be praying for the Church, that the Church would be resilient in the midst of such attack. [Pray] those that stay in the region will continue to be salt and light and bring the Gospel forward,” Brobbel requests.

“People that were so opposed to the Gospel, once they get a copy of the Gospel and start reading what it says, we see [them] giving their lives to Christ.”

Header image depicts a gathering of Islamic State militants on the Mali-Niger border in July 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)



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