The voice of hope among the Hassaniya
By Victor Bajah
Every year, hundreds of Christians around the world move into unfamiliar environments, some with their families, in obedience to God’s call to take the gospel to all nations and make disciples. The Mali Faithful Witness team is working among the Hassaniya-speaking people of the Kayes region.
Faithful Witness is an initiative of SIM that recruits and sends multi-cultural, multi-organizational and multi-skilled workers into communities across the world where there is no church and virtually no Christian witness.
This description fits the Hassaniya-speaking people of the Kayes region. The team is focused on relational transformation. They intentionally seek the lost and young disciples for God’s kingdom in a place with few social amenities, and devoid of words such as comfort, peace or security.
In 2019, Faithful Witness leaders, along with partners and local church leaders, visited the region, sequel to visits in 2000, 2011, 2018. The city of Kayes, which shares its name with the region, has some indigenous churches and a Nigerian church. In the rural areas, however, the Fulani villages have few gatherings of believers. There is no church among the Moors and Soninke people.
The Hassaniya-speaking Moors are considered unreached. Most villages in that region are without churches or Christian organisations, with the majority of Christians concentrated in urban centres. These villagers would have died without hearing the gospel of salvation.
“There are no known believers amongst the Hassaniya, and less than a handful amongst the Soninke and Fulani,” says Joshua Ngunta, SIM’s Mali Director.
In spite of the long and draining challenges of traveling, the team made a fact-finding visit. They discovered God was opening opportunities ahead of them for a harvest of souls. Nevertheless, there were no labourers on the field. This informed their desire to get feet on the ground for kingdom work.
The Hassaniya have expressed openness for workers to live among them and learn their language.
The Hassaniya villages they visited opened their arms in welcome. The labours of previous workers had lit the path for the new team. They saw God’s love and the missionaries’ good-will through acts of compassion and other outreaches. They provided famine relief, built wells, schools and children’s clubs. The church teams showed the Jesus Film and distributed tracts. They held medical clinics, and learned their language and culture.
God had used these contacts to soften the hearts of the people; even their village heads were delighted to have the team and publicly honoured them. These villagers also expressed zeal to engage the team in conversations.
The Hassaniya of Kayes
The name ‘Hassaniya’ defines both the people and their language. They are typically rural and live mostly as pastoralists. Amongst the Hassaniya in Mali, there is only one known believer, but he is from a different region. They are mostly Tidjani Muslims, and the country is dominated by Islam.
There are mainly three groups in this region. The Moors (Hassaniya), the Soninke people, who are business minded, with entrepreneurs among them, and the Malinke (Maninka) with a very small number of believers.
No books of the Bible are translated into Hassaniyya. The Jesus Film is available in Hassaniyya as well as audio recordings of Gospel stories from the Global Recordings Network.
God has opened doors of ministry. The Hassaniya have expressed openness for workers to live among them and learn their language. The team has received numerous requests for help, including adult literacy teachers, medical caregivers, and children’s club workers, among others. This became a sign to the whole team that this is a ﬁeld ripe for harvest and in need of harvesters.
While the Hassaniya welcome the team, the team also realized the challenges to gospel work in the region. Insecurity, a harsh climate, isolation and deeply held cultural beliefs are huge impediments.
But SIM Mali Director Joshua Ngunta is optimistic and believes God has stepped out with the team to build His Kingdom.
“We want to step into this land by faith. Through our survey focused on one particular group in that harvest field, we are conscious of the prayer of Psalm 67, ‘May all the peoples praise Him!’ “
Their Faith Response
Undaunted by the enormity of the task, a young family from Nigeria, took a leap of faith to live amongst the Hassaniya.
“We must confess that it was not an easy decision to make. But knowing that there are people dying without the opportunity of hearing about the salvation in Christ Jesus is enough reason for us. For what good is having a room with a hundred lamps when another is in deep darkness?”
They journeyed to Mali amidst enormous challenges. In spite of long waits, they considered it an adventure, and arrived on December 11, 2019.
They were consoled by the words of Ezra: ‘The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way’ Ezra 8:31-32.
Their faith in the Lord and warm fellowship with other missionaries on the ground is helping them to scale the hurdles of a new environment. It makes it easier to deal with harsh weather, the higher cost of living, ill-health of their son, and learning Hassaniya and French.
God has been graciously on their side all the time. They are driven by the truth, “For the gospel is no longer good news if it doesn’t arrive on time.”
- For God’s Spirit to prepare the hearts of Hassaniya herdsmen to receive the Gospel.
- For God’s love and unity to grow among the missionaries in Kayes region.
- For God’s intervention in the health and economic crisis due to the coronavirus.
- For financial provision for the team.
- For God to bring more workers to the team.
- For peace in Mali and other West African states threatened by Islamic extremists.
- For protection for all gospel workers.