We live in a world which always seems to have a war raging somewhere, and problems everywhere else, so it’s easy to begin to lose track of what is happening on all the continents. At this time, most world news headlines relate to the complex and perilous situation in the Middle East, and so it’s especially easy to miss what is happening elsewhere – but as Christians we do need to notice.
The Africa-based Institute for Security Studies recently released a summary of the problems in Africa as we go into 2016. The graphic above summarizes this report, and we should notice that it does not consider ongoing problems of famine, disease, malnutrition, human trafficking, and other issues – simply current political problems.
Africa is a huge continent (for a graphic representation of just how huge, see our blog post here), and the first thing we need to see is just how widespread the problems are over that massive landmass. According to the ISS, there are crisis hotspots in twelve countries with major problems ranging from ongoing terrorist activity to all-out war. To put this in perspective, if twelve states of the United States of America were experiencing these levels of crisis and anarchy, most Americans would regard the situation as virtually apocalyptic.
The kidnapping of 276 (still missing) Chibok schoolgirls by the Islamic Jihadist and terrorist organization, Boko Haram, in Nigeria in 2014 resonated around the world (#BringBackOurGirls), but this event was only one of hundreds of ongoing kidnappings, killings and attacks being perpetrated by this and other groups in Africa – many of which never make it into the news in the Western world.
The cost for everyone affected by this ongoing violence is terrible, of course, but we need to be particularly aware of its effect on members of the Christian faith. Christians are the primary target of much of the violence and persecution in many of the crisis hotspot areas – and remember a “hotspot” in Africa is not just a “spot,” it may be an area of thousands of square miles. In some areas Christians are being attacked daily, with as many as three churches a week being burned and destroyed. Our prayers for believers in these areas are needed just as much as for those in the Middle East who are suffering in what are often better reported circumstances.
Notice also that the ISS graphic shows the high number of elections in many of the affected countries in 2016, and we can pray that those elections will result in better acceptance and protection for Christians who are endangered by the widespread problems. Overall the situation in Africa is worse for Christians than it has been for many years, and the problems are growing almost everywhere.
So if you are part of the family of Christianity (1 John 3:1-2, Ephesians 2:19-22), think about the responsibility to which our faith calls us – to have concern for suffering members of that family (1 Corinthians 12:25-26) and to help them (Galatians 6:10). We need to be aware of the situation and remember to pray for and support our family in Africa.