What is God doing today among displaced people in sahel?
The vast Sahel region of North Africa is considered the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis. The United Nations estimates there are around 2.9 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Sahel. Refugees and asylum seekers add another roughly 1 million to that number. Ten countries make up Africa’s Sahel — in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, and Mauritania. The primary displacement cause is jihadi insurgencies. In Burkina Faso alone, IDPs have reached 1.8 million. Across Chad, the number reaches 380,000. Mali has over 350,000 IDPs, and Niger some 260,000.
Drought is an ongoing crisis that comes in waves through the years, destroying crops, cattle, and lands. Survival is the greatest challenge. The deforestation, desertification, and over-farming of the semi-arid land, isolated floods, and the decline in river and lake levels are visible everywhere. When food shortages hit, millions of people across the Sahel suffer. The UN reports 65% of the region’s population is younger than 25. Malnourishment among children in food crises is especially critical.
The Sahara Desert, north of the Sahel, is the most ungovernable region in the world, largely under the control of jihadists and flush with weapons from Libya. Yet it is through this same desert that people are fleeing to pursue their dreams in the West.
Villages are often attacked at night by jihadists, leaving many dead. Panic strikes, and by dawn most families flee with whatever they could carry. Most walk toward the nearest river, where dugout canoes ferry them across for exorbitant prices. Everywhere they go, horrified villagers wonder if they would be targeted next. In exchange for information, the villagers offer water, some gruel, or if it is dusk, space to drop their floor mats for the night. Families trek to meet with relatives or find a refugee camp.
The modern routes across the Sahara Desert still follow the links between ancient oases. Overloaded and decrepit trucks now replace camel caravans. Each load of human cargo is often further victimized, especially women. For some, the journey leads to North Africa, as they attempt to illegally enter Europe across the Mediterranean.
Whenever displaced people have relatives, they flee there. Most of the compassion for IDPs is shouldered by extended Christian families and/or churches with ministry programs. If refugee workers are welcomed in camps, multiple compassion ministries can be offered — meals, tents, mosquito nets, blankets, medicine, water, sanitation, as well as children’s and women’s ministries, education, and training. Specialized trauma care is given, as are Bibles in local languages. Through translators, Christians coordinate prayer meetings in camps, often linking them with local churches.
Even in refugee camps, Muslims seek to prevent fellow Muslims from the influences of Christian workers. The most fruitful outcomes usually follow when Muslim IDPs flee to Christian relatives or friends. Untold numbers of fleeing Muslims quietly come to Christ while they are sheltered and cared for by Christian families or church communities.
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