THE CHURCH IN CHAD: GROWING BUT ONLY IN THE SOUTH

1. History

The Republic of Chad is a landlocked African country occupying most of Libya’s Saharan border and progressing through the Sahel down into the vast forests of Africa. Beginning in the 7th millennium BC, human populations moved into the Chadian basin in great numbers. By the end of the 1st millennium AD, a series of states and empires had risen and fallen in Chad’s Sahelian Strip, each focused on controlling the trans-Saharan trade routes that passed through the region satisfying the Roman need for salt and slaves.

Traditionally, the fertile oasis region around Lake Chad was a focal point for these trans-Saharan trade routes. In the 7th Century Arab traders penetrated the area. Shortly thereafter, nomads from North Africa entered the Chad basin and eventually established the Kanem Empire which reached its zenith in the 13th Century. Its kings soon converted to Islam, the religion also practiced by the successor kingdom of Bornu. The Bornu fell to the Wadai and Bagirmi empires in the 16th century. By the early 1890s all of these states fell under the control of the Sudanese. Fighting for power and control is in the Chadian blood.

French expeditions advanced into the region in 1890 and by 1913 the conquest of Chad was complete. In 1920 it became a separate colony and it was granted its own territorial legislature in 1946. Full independence was attained on Aug. 11, 1960.

In 1900 Islam was still only the second most dominant religion to animist African beliefs and practices. This changed dramatically after independence as Islam advanced to become a majority religion in the country.

2. Today

Chad is now 52% Muslim. Being desperately poor, it has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Around half the population is 15 years old or under and literacy is just over 50%. Its average income is just 2% of the USA, and that is only because of the discovery of oil which mostly finds its way into the hands of the elite and the army. Droughts are common, as is political instability. Sadly, Chad frequently picks up the gong for the world’s most corrupt country.

Since 2003 the Darfur crisis in Sudan has spilt over the border and destabilised the nation, with hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees living in and around camps in eastern Chad. Corruption, lack of economic incentive and government failure to support local agricultural production has meant that the majority of Chadians live via subsistence agriculture and in daily uncertainty and hunger.

3. Evangelical Highlights

Being a French colony, only the Catholic version of Christianity was promoted in Chad up until independence. Since then there has been a strong and steady increase in the number of evangelical believers who now surprisingly number just under 10% of the total population. There are now over 2 million Christians in total out of 13 million people and there are over 6,000 individual church congregations. Unfortunately almost all of these Christians are in the deep south where African Animist religions once prevailed.

Little impact has been made on the dominant northern Muslim community. Since independence Islam has grown from 25% to 57% of the population and is now in the political ascendency. Sadly, there is a huge cultural, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and religious divide between the north and south that is not easily bridged. Subtle pressure is now also being exerted on the country by Muslims in high places in the government and military via financial missions money from the Middle East. The tragedy that is Darfur has also brought many disillusioned Sudanese Muslims from the east into contact with the Gospel for the first time.

At the present time the surge of growth in Christianity seems to have run its course. Many congregations are losing their missions vision. Division between churches is rising, as is nominalism and the occult. Traditional religions are trying to reclaim their lost adherents through such activities as the Yondo initiation rituals. Most new believers just want to find a religion that will deal with the power of the occult that invades so much of life in this part of the world.

To its credit Chad’s government has maintained a strict policy of freedom of religion and welcomes Christian missionaries. Within this framework of tolerance, the number of Muslims coming to Christ continues to grow slowly. Chad’s Arabic Christian radio station is a great resource in these efforts in a country that has such a low level of literacy.

4. Prayer Points

Praise God for the amazing harvest in the southern tip of the country over the last 40 years.

Pray for the breaking of occult powers and demonic strongholds.

Pray for the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to be revealed in dark places.

Pray that the love of Christ becomes visible through the actions of both the evangelical and Catholic church.

Pray that Chadians will reject the pressure of Middle eastern Muslim fundamentalists.

Pray for a renewal of the missions vision of the church.

Pray for cross cultural workers from the south to move into the north.

Pray for an insider movement within Islam to show them the way to Jesus in a culturally sensitive way.

Pray for souls to be set free.

 

Lord, Your Kingdom come, your will be done, no earth as it is in heaven.

Next week: Comoros

Kevin Davis

 

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