Djibouti (pronounced Ja-booti) is a small desert country strategically located across the entrance to the Red Sea from Yemen. It is surrounded by the politically unstable countries of Eritrea, and Somalia, with a stable Ethiopia to the west. People have lived here since the dawn of time and had domesticated cattle by the time of Abraham. Djibouti is considered the most likely location of the fabled land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt.
Strangely, Djibouti did not become a majority Christian area in the first few centuries of the faith as Eritrea and Ethiopia did just up the coast and inland. This meant that Islam spread rapidly when it first arrived in the early years of that faith. Then nothing much happened in this small part of the world for 1,100 years, until the French saw the strategic value in Djibouti’s location and took it for themselves in 1884. A railway to Ethiopia was completed in 1917, was recently upgraded for $4bn, and guarantees the future growth of Djibouti City.
Today the nation of Djibouti is virtually a city-state, with some 88% of its almost 1 million people living in Djibouti City. Two thirds of the population is under age 30 and the average life expectancy is about 65 years. Climatically, it is not a nice place to live! The government was completely reliant on foreign aid, trade exports via the Ethiopian railway and French, Japanese, Chinese and American air bases…everyone needs this spot to stay peaceful! The country is finally growing well as the government gets its act together, GDP has doubled in the last 10 years.
The French took no notice of ethnic boundaries when claiming the country and forced two warring groups, the Afar and the Somalis together. This led to much political instability after independence in 1977, but it has settled down lately. Nearby civil wars have brought in many refugees and these have had to be forcibly removed recently. A staunchly undemocratic and paranoid government seeks to control every aspect of society by stifling the basic freedoms of association, religion and expression. However, this also means the horrific civil wars to its north and south have been avoided in Djibouti.
The constitution declares Freedom of religion but Islam is the state religion, and all laws and policies are influenced by Sharia law. Both Shia and Sunni radicals are using the country as a stop-over on their way to both Yemen’s civil war and the failed state of Somalia.
Recurring droughts beginning in the second half of the 2000s devastated the subsistence pastoralism on which many of Djibouti’s people had depended, leading to chronic malnutrition in nearly a third of the population and chronic overcrowding in the capital.
3. Evangelical Highlights
The evangelical church in Djibouti does exist but only numbers some 1,300 believers. It is, however, growing slightly faster than the population at some around 3.5%. Some evangelical fellowships have also recently sprung up from among the sub-Saharan African immigrants.
Sadly, all our spiritual brothers and sister in Djibouti face difficulties. The few Christians from Muslim backgrounds experience terrible persecution at the hands of local communities and family members. Djibouti’s communal lifestyle makes hiding one’s faith incredibly difficult. If someone is even rumoured to have converted to Christianity, they lose their inheritance rights and often custody of their children. They are also closely monitored by their families, members of the local mosque and the rest of the community. Local authorities always fail to protect Christians from attack, leading to impunity for persecutors. Djibouti needs a breakthrough!
4. Prayer Points
Pray for the destruction of the demonic strongholds over these people.
Pray for safety among all believers.
Pray for “God opportunities” for believers to pray for the needs of others.
Pray for revival to come to the 14,000 Catholic and Orthodox faithful.
Pray for Believers from the Afar and Somali people groups.
Pray for divine visitations, dreams and visions to confront Islamic truth seekers.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, judgement and righteousness.
Pray for workers to be raised up for the coming harvest.
Pray for the 18 million evangelical believers next door in Ethiopia to get a vision to reach Djibouti!