Christians Targeted in Sahel Region Violence, Death Count Uncertain

mali conflict

A recent attack on a Dogon village in Mali resulted in the deaths of multiple men, women, and children. While accounts differ as to whether the number of people who died was around 40 or closer to 100, Open Doors reports that all who died were Christians.

“About 50 heavily armed men arrived on motorbikes and pickups,” said survivor Amadou Togo, according to Open Doors, which monitors Christian persecution across the world. “They first surrounded the village and then attacked–anyone who tried to escape was killed. No one was spared–women, children, elderly people.”

Ongoing Mali Conflict

The violence occurred on the evening of Sunday, June 9th, in the village of Sobame Da, also called Sobane-Kou. In addition to surrounding the village and killing anyone who tried to escape, the attackers killed animals and burned houses. One source said they essentially destroyed the entire town. 

According to the BBC, accounts of the attack differ depending on whether the government or locals are providing the information. The government called the attackers “suspected terrorists,” while the mayor of a nearby town said that the culprits were ethnic Fulani. Also, days after the attack, the Malian government changed its original death toll estimate from 95 to 35. But Reuters reports the district’s mayor believes the number could be higher because the government has not taken into account the remains of bodies in the town. Reuters says that neither side has conclusive evidence for their death tolls. 

Other ethnic Dogon villages have been attacked in the days since the attack on Sobame Da, and multiple incidents of violence have occurred between ethnic Fulani and Dogon in Mali over the past months and years. The Dogon are farmers, while the Fulani are predominatly Muslim, semi-nomadic herders, and the BBC believes that the conflict has both racial and religious motivations. The tension between the two group was initially aggravated by a militant Islamist uprising in 2012, while the government’s inability to bring stability to the region has only made it worse. However, the Fulani are not the only ones responsible for initiating violence. The group Dogon Dan Na Ambassagou was responsible for the deaths of at least 130 Fulani in the Malian village of Ogossagou in March.

Regional Violence 

It is not just the country of Mali that has been impacted by such violence. Reuters says that jihadists and criminal gangs are active across the Sahel, a region covering western and north-central Africa. There were reportedly “scores” of Christians killed in Nigeria this past March in an incident involving the terrorist group Boko Haram. This attack was part of extensive, ongoing violence in Nigeria, much of which has been against Christians.

Other recent attacks in Western Africa include when jihadists killed six Catholic church-goers in Burkina Faso in mid-May, an incident that occurred less than a month after a similar attack on a Protestant church that took the lives of six people. 

Whether this continued violence in western Africa is primarily ethnic, religious, or a mix of both, it is clear that people who live in these areas could use the prayers of Christians across the world. 

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Jessica Mouser
Jessica Mouser is a writer for ChurchLeaders.com. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past two years. She especially enjoys evaluating how various beliefs play out within culture. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.