Population: 16 million Majority Religion: Islam (87%) Christian Population: 400,000 approx. Persecution Category: Significant
Population: 17 million Majority Religion: Islam (97%) Christian Population: 50,000 Persecution Category: Limited
The Republic of Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries, blighted by drought, desertification and plagues of locusts. It gained independence from France in 1960 and is constitutionally secular, with freedom of religion and a tradition of peace between Muslims and Christians, the majority of whom live in the south.
The Republic of Niger is 80% desert, with savannah grasslands in the southwest and in a narrow strip along the southern border with Nigeria. It is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. A French colony from 1921 to 1960, Niger is constitutionally secular, with full religious freedom, and has been known for peaceful coexistence between the Muslim majority and the tiny Christian minority. However, tension is increasing between Muslims and Christians due to the violence in neighbouring Nigeria and the rise of Islamist groups – dozens have emerged since 1991, some of them extremist. Islamic religious leaders are increasingly pressurising the government to make the country more Islamic.
In 2012, however, ethnic Tuareg rebels working with Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists seized control of the north and declared an independent Islamic state, imposing strict Sharia law. They targeted Christians, destroying all the churches in Gao and Timbuktu and banning baptisms. Many Muslim families protected and hid their Christian neighbours, before most fled south to the capital, Bamako, or to neighbouring countries. In January 2013, French forces drove the Islamists out as they advanced south and helped Malian forces to regain control of the region. Civilian rule was reestablished in summer 2013 but the north remains unstable and many Christians who fled are afraid to return.
The church in Niger is small and faces pressure from Islam, especially in the south. There is social and cultural pressure to remain Muslim, and converts to Christianity can face persecution from family and community, including threats of death and abduction.
Published on Jul 4, 2014
The Church in Chains Global Guide lists 60 countries where Christians face persecution because of their faith. The Global Guide divides the...