BAMAKO, Mali – Recent government coups are increasing the potential for persecution in one of the countries Missouri Baptists are working to evangelize, said Rick Hedger, partnership mission specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
Mali is one of several nations in the “western Africa gateway cluster” that has partnered with the MBC since 2009. Hedger estimates that MBC churches have taken a dozen or so trips there in that time, though he and the International Mission Board (IMB) say no trips can take place in the coming months.
“City after city after city are falling in the north,” Hedger said. “The rebels there are calling for sharia law.”
Missionaries and volunteers have had freedom to share in past years. However, sharia law would mean – among other things – it would be illegal to share the gospel or possess the Bible, punishable by death. If that takes place, the door could be closed for a while to missionaries and volunteer teams.
The Associated Press reported April 5 that Islamic rebels announced Timbuktu, a city in northern Mali, will be under sharia law. They reported that one Baptist pastor said 95 percent of the city’s 300 Christians have fled since the city fell to the rebels April 1.
“We sit praying, hoping and waiting that things will open up and settle down so they can go back into a country that they love to share the gospel,” Hedger said. “There have been several people groups there where God has been moving greatly and people have been coming to faith in Jesus.”