Renewed fighting between ethnic Tauregs and Malian security forces in the nation’s north has Christians worried that Islamist groups will regain the impunity they enjoyed when ransacking churches and banishing Christians from the region last year. Pastors are expressing deep concerns that northern Mali could once again lose control to predominantly Muslim Tauregs, which could lead to the displacement of Christians, their harassment, and the looting of their churches and places of worship.
06/02/2014 Mali (World Watch Monitor) – Renewed fighting and re-occupation of a number of towns in northern Mali by armed Tuareg groups has renewed anxieties among the region’s Christian minority.
On May 21, a coalition of Tuareg rebels overran Malian army forces after an intense fight for control of Kidal, one of the largest cities in northern Mali. The fighting followed a May 17 visit by Mali Prime Minister Moussa Mara to Kidal, considered a stronghold for the independence-minded ethnic Tuareg. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says about 4,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
There are reports that Tuareg fighters also have taken control of the towns of Meneka, Aguelhok, Anefis and Tessalit, across the country’s north.
On May 23, rebels agreed to a cease-fire brokered by Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, president of neighboring Mauritania and chairman of the African Union.
The fighting is a powerful reminder of the Tuareg separatist violence that swept down from the north in 2012 and precipitated a coup of the national government. For nearly a year, armed Islamist groups ruled the north, banning other religions, and looting churches and other houses of worship. Thousands of people, including many Christians, fled to the southern Mali or to neighboring countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso.
For Pastor Mohamed Ag Moussa Yattara, it’s as if history is repeating itself.