April 25, 2012
Christians in Mali are in a "desperate plight" following last month's military coup, which caused government forces in the country's three northern regions to collapse and allowed Islamist rebel groups to seize control, Christian Today reports. One of the Islamist groups, Ansar Dine, has links to al Qaeda and wants to turn Mali into an Islamic state by imposing sharia law. Around 215,000 people have been displaced from their homes, many of them fleeing to Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Many Christians have sought safety in Mali's capital, Bamako, where churches are feeding and sheltering them. According to aid organization Barnabas Fund, churches in the towns of Gao and Timbuktu were destroyed in the Islamic takeover, forcing the congregations to abandon their homes and flee south. "Horrible crimes have been made against the population -- massacres, rape of women, obligation to wear the veil, chasing Christians," a Barnabas Fund source reported. Compounding the plight of the refugees is a food crisis in the region which has caused the cost of basic foods to double. Barnabas Fund is providing corn and rice for hundreds of Christian refugees, and is also supplying medicine and covering the cost of housing for some families.