Dear JLPF Friends,
We have been following the news coming out of Mali with great interest, especially since the aggressive push by the French to expel the Jihadists from the North. Please read the latest perspective from our partner, Dr. Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara, so you will be better informed on how to pray for them.
ANTICIPATING THE RETURN
Since January 17, 2012, the northern regions of Mali live in fear and insecurity. Famine, desolation and precariousness have settled. Populations, victims of harassment, abuse, exaction and all kinds of brutality moved towards the southern regions of Mali, during the attacks by the MNLA rebels and other Islamist groups. Tens of thousands of our citizens and hundreds of Christians have been forced to leave their areas of residence or usual intervention because of insecurity for other destinations often uncertain.
A few weeks ago, the entire Mali was in turmoil when we learned with dismay the progress of Islamists to the south. For us who fled our homes and our cities in recent months, the victory of the Islamists over the armed forces and security has aroused painful and excruciating memories. My family and I had the feeling of living a second exodus. Our mind was full of intrusive memories of looting and destruction of our homes and institutions ... theft, intimidation, threats, physical aggression, terrorism, rules of life contrary to the habits of the people, isolation, desecration of our places of worship and churches, prohibition practice of other religions outside of Islam.
All these memories have suddenly vanished and turned into a dream when we learned with great joy the French army intervention to stop the progression of the various armed groups, drug traffickers and Islamist terrorists. The whole nation had been released. What was commonly called the Northern crisis or the crisis in Mali comes to know an early settlement. They were scenes of jubilation and joy through the streets of our cities and countryside. Liberation and the future of the North became the favorite subjects in homes and places of conversation. Phone calls to congratulate each other and pray for the conquest of the North. This joy and happiness experienced their peak with the liberation of Gao and Timbuktu. “We were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing...The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” (Psalm 126)
Joy and happiness were found on all visible faces. Our heads are big with projects and hope for our people, our hearts are filled with ambitious plans for our ministries and institutions. Regained freedom is a shared feeling. The euphoria was widespread even contagious. Despite the regained freedom, the joy seems halfhearted to the idea that the Kidal region, considered the bastion of terrorism is still under occupation. The signals sent from the French army do little to encourage optimism because we are all persuaded that the establishment of a lasting peace inevitably passes through the pacification of the region of Kidal. How long?
With this new situation, we face two major challenges. First is how to promote peace, reconciliation and healing between children of the same soil or country. Division and hatred have settled on both sides. Humiliation and bullying are still alive and living in the thoughts; feelings of revenge are still palpable. Secondly is how do we prepare for the return to our homes when we know that everything has been destroyed. Our churches have been vandalized, our homes looted, our libraries burned and our schools have become landfills. Everything must be rebuilt. In this crisis in Mali; Church and Christians were the most affected, but their fate was silenced by the national and international opinion in favor of manuscripts and mausoleums. To our amazement and dismay, we met with many people who do not know or do not want to recognize that more than 800 Christians were expelled from the North and robbed of their possessions which were auctioned.
How to consider the return and reconstruction in such circumstances? This is the great unknown or the most difficult question that arises to one and other. To these Christians, the burden is very heavy to carry.
We are anxious to return but there are many unknowns. For our part, the return will not be immediate. There are simply big reconstruction efforts to undertake at all levels. This reconstruction is not only physical, but moral and spiritual. It must lead and foster a climate of peace and justice. We look forward to the start of administrative services, the restoration of the authority of the state, the operation of hospitals and banks, the reopening of schools for our children. We plan to finish our academic year in Bamako and then we can calmly consider our return to Gao for the next academic year of the Institut Biblique de la Boucle when minimum conditions of life are met.
In the meantime, let us pray together for peace in Mali and reconciliation between the children of the country to be a reality. Pray for lasting social cohesion, for harmonious development and for the blossoming of the nation of Mali.
Dr Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara
Institut Biblique de la Boucle
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