West Africa is the tale of two oceans: the Atlantic to the west and the great Sahara Desert to the north. These oceans provided access to the region’s more than 300 million inhabitants. Europeans began arriving from the Atlantic in the 15th century to stake out trading posts from which they would gather slaves and gold, eventually building colonies from what is today Mauritania in the north to Nigeria in the south. The other ocean, the Sahara Desert, one that we often fail to see, had already provided passage for northern conquerors centuries earlier. As early as the eight century the Sahara yielded passage to Arab and Berber invaders from North Africa on camel caravans, rightly called “ships of the desert”, seeking the same prizes – slaves, ivory, and gold – while leaving behind their Islamic faith.
In the 1960s, independence movements swept West Africa, but the older conflict between Christian and Muslim communities increased. Today, West Africa is divided between Muslim populations in the north and east and Christian populations along southern and western Atlantic coastal zone.
The earlier allure of slaves, ivory and gold has been supplanted by other attractions, such as the diamonds that led to genocidal wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia (1980-2002) and the rich oil fields that have generated both wealth and conflict in Nigeria.
Christianity has grown rapidly in West Africa over the past century, and much of the region’s wealth has been under the control of Christian communities living near the coasts. Muslims in the arid interior have seen their fortunes deteriorate as global warmings and the expanding Sahara have depleted agricultural and grazing lands. The result is an increasingly impoverished and desperate Islamic populace, giving rise to militant responses from groups such as Boko Haram, Ansaru, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.
HOW CAN WE PRAY?
● Pray for the dozens of emerging Islamic movements to Christ in West Africa.
● Pray for the physical as well as spiritual needs of the Muslim population in West Africa
● Pray for God to protect West Africans from the assault of Islamic militant groups.