Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa with an overwhelmingly Muslim population. However, until recent years Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional African religions continued to live peaceably together, as they had for centuries. However, this situation came to a bloody end in 2012 when war broke out in the northern part of the country, much of which lies within the Sahara Desert region. Tuareg rebels had formed an alliance with radical Islamists and sought to establish an independent Islamic state in this part of the country. Initially the jihadists gained control over the northern half and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee as a result.
But then in 2013, when the Islamists attempted to conquer the south of the country as well and turn the civil state into an Islamist theocracy, France and the UN intervened militarily in the conflict and rapidly defeated the Islamist rebels.
However, in practice Mali has been a divided country since 2013. A fact that has also impacted the lives of Catholics in the country, who today make up around 200,000 faithful in the midst of a total population of some 18 million.
Whereas in the north of the country it is all but impossible for the Church to function normally, and the great majority of her structures there have been destroyed, the situation is somewhat better in the south of the country – although even here there are occasional violent assaults. Nevertheless, the Catholic community is even growing here, although almost all her new members are former animists, rather than Muslims.
In the south of the country, in the diocese of San, lies the very lively parish of Yasso, which is dedicated to Saint Therese of Lisieux. It has some 5,000 active faithful and includes around 40 villages. And the number of Catholics is growing steadily. So far they have only a small and somewhat temporary chapel, which is far too small for the community and at risk of collapsing when the rainy season comes. But now they have been able to start work on a large and permanent church, big enough to accommodate 2,000 people. The walls are already standing, but they do not have the money for the roof. So they have turned to ACN for help, and we have promised them 48,000 Euros so that they can finally complete their church.