A pastoral letter for Anabaptist-Mennonites in West Africa

Beloved sisters and brothers:

In recent weeks we have been made aware of the escalating violent conflict in West Africa along the Central Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, affecting our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso (l’Église Évangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso).

Terrorist attacks have been on the rise in the region, beginning in 2012 in Mali, 2013 in Niger, and 2016 in Burkina Faso. The attacks have caused thousands of deaths, millions of displaced people, and paralysis of essential activities from health to education in these three countries.

The deteriorating security situation has also undermined democratic governance in these countries. West and Central Africa have experienced nine coup d’états since 2020, the latest being in Niger on 26 July 2023.

The West Africa’s regional bloc (ECOWAS) met on Thursday, August 10, to order the activation of a standby force for possible use against the military junta that took power in Niger. At the moment, there is still a strong wish for a peaceful end to this crisis.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

We ask that churches pray for the leaders of West Africa to remember the real cost of war. That all parties would be willing to come to the table genuinely willing to negotiate. That they be given the wisdom to discern a way to lead the region forward, centred around peace, security and humanity.

In the words of Siaka Traoré (MWC West and Central Africa Regional Representative): “Living in this geographical context, the weapon we have as citizens of the kingdom of God is prayer. We ask all brothers and sisters that you take a moment to pray that this escalation stops, that a nonviolent resolution is to be found for the crisis and that peace return to the Sahel region.”

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace, amen.

Henk Stenvers, president, Mennonite World Conference