Challenges for Prayer
1Islam grew from about 45% of the population in 1900 to over 97% in 2009. It is the religion of almost all the Wolof, Fulbe and Mande peoples. Praise God for religious freedom; tolerance for other religions being a source of pride – possibly because so few Muslims have ever come to Christ. Pray for a new receptivity to the gospel and the preservation of freedom of religion.
2 The three Muslim Sufi brotherhoods are well-organized, wealthy and politically powerful; over 85% of all Muslims belong to one of them. The Mouride Brotherhood is virtually a state within a state based in their capital, Touba, and with a global economic empire in Europe and North America based on the peddling trade. Pray for a significant breakthrough for the gospel with key leaders meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 The Casamance in the south has been troubled by a guerrilla war over many years, and although not such an overt problem currently the after effects are still being felt, with sporadic banditry taking place in villages and on the main roads. Pray that there might be the political will to invest adequately in the infra structure to see the Casamance region develop economically.
4 Christians are confined to sections of the Serer, Jola, and Cape Verdian peoples. There are also some congregations among smaller ethnic groups in the south. Their influence is disproportionately great through their input into health services and education. Sadly most are nominally Catholic and from a non-Muslim background. Their lifestyle often does no credit to the cause of Christ, for few know real freedom in Christ and victory over the powers of darkness. Muslims refer to Christians as ‘those who drink’ rather than those who follow Christ.
5 Evangelical believers are few, the rate of growth slow, and only among the Serer (FLM, AoG), Bassari (AoG), Balanta (WEC, AoG, NTM), and Jola (WEC, IMB-SBC, Capro) has there been any significant church planting. There is an increasing confidence amongst the members of the fledgling church about their identity in Christ and their identity as evangelicals in Senegal. Pray that the church will rise up and have a greater and greater assurance of their identity.
6 There is a greater and greater awareness of the need for training of both the grass roots membership, and also for leaders. Consequently there has been a multiplication of training opportunities in Senegal. Pray that the immense need of foundational Bible teaching for church members will take place, and that a new generation of Godly leaders will also emerge.
7 The face of mission in Senegal is changing. Older, established missions such as WEC, NTM, YWAM, IMB-SBC, SIM, UWM, Finnish Lutherans etc, are being added to by the African and South American missions’ movement. The doors to Senegal are open and more and more African and South American missions teams and individuals are getting involved. WEC entered the Casamance in the south in 1936 among the Fulbe, in the 1950s to the Jola and Balanta, and later the predominantly Muslim Senegal River Valley in the north. Other pioneer missions followed over the years, and there are now 50 church-planting missions serving in the country under the cover of the Fraternite Evangelique du Senegal. Pray that people will continue to come to take advantage of the doors that are still open, in a country that is largely Muslim and where Islam is taking greater and greater hold. SIL, serving as an NGO, has an important presence in Senegal providing help in literacy, linguistic research and Bible translation in many language groups. Mission Inter Senegal (MIS) has been established as a ‘home-produced’ mission organisation recruiting evangelists and church planters from within Senegal with an aim to reach the Senegalese.
8 Major areas of the country are still very much pioneer situations. The urban centres are attracting more and more of the rural population and thee are myriad opportunities to reach people who are in tremendous need economically and spiritually.
- Dakar is the home of a quarter of the population of Senegal. Every ethnic group is represented. In 1990 there were 15 evangelical groups, in 1996 there were 33 groups and in 2009 there are not many more. In the suburbs where 1,9 million people live you can count the number of evangelical groups on 2 hands. Dakar is the mission base for most agencies, but only a few missionaries are actually committed to church planting. Pray for this city to become a source of gospel light for the whole country.
- The Senegal River Valley in the north and northeast is a major development zone for the government. Though there is much agricultural development going on only a few missionaries are working on this strategic frontier among the Tukulor, Maure, Wolof, Fulbe and Soninke. There are some scattered small groups of believers and only a smattering of missionaries.
- The central and eastern areas of Senegal are sparsely populated and unevangelized. Huge tracts of land with many isolated villages remain to be reached with the gospel.
- Young people. 45% of the 12 million population are under 17 years of age. The students and youth can be less committed to ‘formal religion’ and so can often show a greater openness to the gospel. The small IFES group in Dakar is fervent, but most of the members are non-Senegalese. Political unrest is a regular part of student life as they face the uncertainty of the future. Lack of employment opportunities, poor economic conditions and no real hope for the future are disincentives for this growing section of the population. Pray that the God of the Bible could be that source of hope for these people with such much potential.
9 Unreached peoples. Pray for the planting of strong churches among the:
- Wolof. Despite much effort by, and increasing cooperation among, the missionaries of AoG, CBI, IMB-SBC, Brethren, WEC, SIM and others, results have been meagre. There are possibly only about 100 believers and the beginnings of a few congregations. Pray that the advent of the Wolof New Testament, Jesus film and the patient friendship evangelism of Christian workers may break down the barriers preventing this proud people from seeking Jesus. Pray also for the breaking of the underlying spiritism which binds many and for the birth of a truly indigenous Wolof Church with its own hymnody and worship style.
- Serer. Strongly fetishist until the 20th Century, now many are becoming Muslim or Catholic, and a good number Protestant – FLM, AoG, CBI, IMB-SBC and SIM have seen an encouraging response. Bible translation in three Serer languges (Ndut, Non, Safi) is underway (SIL, NTM, etc.)
- Fulbe who are largely a pastoral people, some nomadic. Almost all are at least nominally Muslim. The Lutherans work among the northern Fulbe and WEC in the Casamance. In the latter area are two small congregations. The Fulacunda NT was published in 2000 (WEC).
- Tukulor. Muslim for 900 years, and considering themselves as the defenders of that faith. It is a miracle that there are 15-20 believers (WEC, Lutherans, YWAM). The Tukulor NT was published in 1998.
- Jola, speaking 14 major dialects and languages. Islam is more prevalent in the north of their area but all are bound by fetishism. There are now six Jola-led congregations and seven or more new, growing groups (WEC, CAPRO, IMB-SBC and others). The Kwatay NT was published in 2000, the Jola Casa Bible published in 2009.
- Maures. All are Muslim, with only a few known believers. The majority live in inaccessible Mauritania, though many can be reached in the Senegal River Valley (WEC). There is a weekly local church radio programme in the Hassaniya language.
- Muslim Mande peoples. Those still totally unreached are: Mandinka, Jahanka, Bambara, Kassonke and Susu. Beginnings have been made among the Soninke (Pioneers, WEC, Korean Methodists) but results have yet to be seen.
- The smaller peoples on the southern border who are animistic or nominally Muslim. NTM has a major thrust to evangelize the Balanta-Ganja, Manjak, Budik, Bainuk, Badjaranke, Malinke and Jalonke, with plans also to reach the Mankanya. Some work has been done among the Konyagi (AoG), but the fetishist Mankanya, Bayot, Bainuk and Ganja are unreached. The work has been disrupted by the Casamance unrest.
Also, two more areas for prayer!
Bible translation. Much was achieved in the 1980s and ‘90s. Six long-awaited New Testaments were published, namely Wolof (CBI, Brethren), Serer (Finnish Lutheran), Mandinka (WEC, Gambia), Tukulor (SIL), Fulacunda (WEC) and Bassari (AoG). Pray for a wide dissemination and deep impact on readers. Work on 19 other New Testaments is in hand; pray especially for work on several Jola languages (WEC, SIL). The Wolof OT is being translated and there are plans for translating the OT into Tukulor and Fulacunda.
Specialist Christian ministries for prayer:
a) Literature. Several agencies are seeking to publish and distribute affordable French Christian literature (SBIS, SU, etc.). Reading rooms have been a major outreach tool to Muslims in many urban centres. Pray for meaningful conversations with enquirers. Pray for the publication and distribution of effective Christian literature.
b) The JESUS film has been widely used all over the country in 10 languages. A further 8 languages are in preparation.
c) Cassette tape ministries. GRN has recordings available in 33 languages. Scripture on tape has been particularly effective for the Wolof and Serer.
d) Christian radio programmes can be broadcast on national and local stations. Pray that churches and missions may make full use of this medium (IMB-SBC, WEC, Brethren). HCJB broadcast 15 minutes in Wolof 5 days/week.