Social and Judicial Persecution against Malian Christians
By Sara Solomon
11/28/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Christian persecutors continually adapt methods of persecution to avoid detection. More modern persecution methods can be social and legal in nature and are often overlooked because they are subtler than violent mobs, brutal killings, or beatings. Social alienation, restricted job or legal opportunities, and denial of basic goods like water and food are examples of organized social and legal marginalization. Christians in Mali compose approximately five percent of Mali’s population and suffer from social exclusion. Recently, two Malian Christians were arrested without complete investigations after being falsely accused of forced conversions, detained in inhumane conditions, and face sentencing without fair hearings. This is just one example of social and legal persecution.
Pastor Emmanuel Kone and Sete Keita, a government official, have been accused of Kidnapping and forcefully converting the daughter of a prominent Muslim to Christianity Sangarebougou, Mali. They have also been charged of creating a fake ID for her. The father has designated his daughter as a minor to strengthen his claim that she was forcefully converted. There is little definition of what constitutes forced conversion leaving accusations and sentencing to the accusers’ and courts’ whims. Pastor Kone and Mr. Keita deny that the girl was a minor and that they forced her to convert, but they face a difficult legal battle to defend themselves.
ICC staff have been able to meet with both Pastor Kone and Mr. Keita to hear and voice their side of the story. According to Pastor Kone, the girl had written to his son in fear because she heard demons threatening to take her life and wanted prayer. Pastor Kone followed-up with the girl to pray with her. Several days later, the girl came back and said she had been at peace and wanted to become a Christian, so Pastor Kone led her to Christ. When the family discovered their daughter converted to Christianity, they disowned her, forcing her to seek refuge elsewhere. Pastor Kone arranged for her to attend a Christian school and find safe lodging since she was in danger as a Muslim convert. The girl’s father then accused Pastor Kone of kidnapping and forced conversion of his daughter who he said was a minor.
To prove that the girl was not a minor, Pastor Kone sought the assistance of the education counselor of Sangarebougou’s mayor’s office to find a school identity card and other identification information. Once the girl’s father found out that Mr. Keita had helped Pastor Kone locate a school identity card, he accused Mr. Keita of being an accomplice to her kidnapping and forging a fake identity card.
After the father’s accusations, Pastor Kone and Mr. Keita were arrested and mistreated by authorities. Mr. Keita described how he was “arrested arbitrarily without investigation, deprived of my liberty with irregular meals.” Their lawyers were able to achieve provisional release as they await trial. If convicted, they face up to a life imprisonment sentence and massive fines.
Both Pastor Kone and Mr. Keita have requested prayer. Pastor Kone said “Please pray that all Christians get united and spend time in prayer regarding this current situation on the new method of persecution against the body of Christ” and “that the Lord will support my family…my ministry and my church.” Mr. Keita asked “that I may be strengthened by the Holy Spirit before the tribunals to speak the truth and proclaim the good news.”
Pastor Kone and Mr. Keita’s situation is just one example of the growing use of social and judicial persecution against Malian Christians. The subtlety of such persecution often escapes notice, but its effects are still destructive. ICC will continue to work with Pastor Kone and Mr. Keita to ensure they receive a fair trial and that their story is told.