WHAT IS NORTH AFRICA LIKE?
North Africa has massive mountain ranges dominating much of Morocco and Algeria, vast fertile valleys yielding vegetables, fruit, and grains, and the Sahara in the south. The beautiful beaches, ancient Arab cities, and Roman ruins attract countless tourists.
Though the climates vary widely, all but the desert regions are quite livable. Known as the Maghreb (Arabic for “the west”), North Africa was first conquered by the Phoenicians, then the people of Carthage, and then the Romans in 44 AD.
Muslim expansion in the 7th century led to successive local Berber Muslim kingdoms controlling the region for more than a thousand years. French, Spanish, and Italian colonial powers dominated from the 18th century until the modern nation states became independent after World War II.
North Africans are amazingly friendly, open, hospitable, and resilient people. They are mostly Mediterranean peoples who share much in common ethnically, culturally, and historically with the peoples of southern Europe. There are still millions of indigenous people – the Berbers – despite the early dominance of the region by Arabs.
Large minority groups speaking several Berber dialects thrive in the mountainous and other remote areas. Local dialects of Arabic prevail in the cities. French is widely spoken everywhere except Libya, especially in the cities.
Impact of Islam in North Africa:
Islam shapes many cultural features typical of the region. North Africans are generally proud to be Muslim, though they often do not practice consistently. Islam is often nominal and the people secular in outlook. People do not separate their national identity from their identity as Muslims. Mainstream Sunni Islam predominates.
God working in North Africa:
No country in the region has a surviving Christian community that originated before the arrival of Islam. There has been Protestant missionary work in much of North Africa since the 1800s (it only began in Mauritania in the 1980s).
The strength of the underground church varies, and the number of foreigners working and serving in-country fluctuates. Satellite TV and internet ministries operating outside the region are bearing increasing fruit.
Since the 1990s Algeria has witnessed significant conversions among the Kabyle people, with perhaps several hundred thousand Christians today. Other countries have seen far smaller and less resilient underground house church movements.
Levels of persecution vary, with the strongest opposition to Christ coming from family and community members. In recent decades, reports of dozens of house church plants in Morocco and Tunisia provide great encouragement, but very little is happening in Libya and Mauritania—yet. But God continues his work!
Challenges & struggles to come to Christ:
- Developing a Biblical Worldview
- Family and community pressures
- Threat of physical harm due to decisions about Jesus
- Fear of new ways of life, persecution, societal influence, loneliness
- Spirituality – focusing on relationship with God instead of doing good works
- Leaving behind traditions and previous ways of life
- Difficulty integrating into communities of Muslim background believers
- Living in countries where change of religion isn’t allowed
- Emotional wounds and struggles due to low economic status or difficult backgrounds
Pray for North Africa:
- North Africa needs workers for the harvest! Pray for more workers. (Matt 9:37-38)
- Pray for the peoples of North Africa to call on the name of the Lord. (Rom 10:13)
- Pray that believers (local and other workers) will abide in Jesus so that they will bear much fruit. (John 15:4-5)
- Pray for unity of missionaries, local believers, churches: whether expat, local, official or small house groups. (John 17:21)
- Intimidation and fear are big strongholds in North Africa. Pray for missionaries and believers to operate in the courageous spirit. (1 John 4:18)
- Pray for believers in North Africa to stand strong when they face hard times or persecution. (Daniel 11:32b)
- Pray for workers living in security-sensitive areas to find their identity, both hidden and shown, in the Lord.
- Pray for those in captivity.