Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Church in Mali

Although the Church does not have an official presence in Mali, I have recently confirmed that a member group operates in the country. Missionaries serving in Ghana report that a member group operates outside the capital city of Bamako. Based upon information obtained from other sources, it appears that the member group functions in Ouélessébougou - the hometown of former LDS presidential candidate Yeah Samake. The number of members in Mali has been described as "small" and appear to number no more than 20. Missionaries report that a family from Mali recently traveled to Accra, Ghana to be baptized. Reports indicate that there are approximately 30 prospective members in Mali, most of which appear to reside in the Ouélessébougou and Bamako areas. Most of these potential members have not been baptized due to concern with their level of understanding of LDS teachings and the lack of an official LDS presence in the country. Additionally, concerns have been noted with establishing an LDS presence in Mali due to Muslims constituting the majority of the population. Despite these concerns, risks for proselytism and formal church operations appear minimal based upon the operation of other nontraditional Christian groups that have operated in the country for many years, such as Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. There are no laws or government policies that forbid the operation of Christian groups or proselytism. There do not appear to be any legal barriers in Mali for the Church to obtain legal status based upon the International Religious Freedom Report for 2015. Political instability poses some safety concerns, but prospects appear favorable for an LDS establishment within the foreseeable future, especially in the Bamako and Ouélessébougou areas.

Missionaries serving in Ghana also report that there are two additional countries in the Africa West Area where no official LDS presence operates but where there is a member group operating. It is unclear which countries have a member group, but Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau appear the most likely to have at least one member group in operation.


John Pack Lambert said...

Brother Samake himself is not at present much of a direct participant in the Church in Mali. This is because he serves as Mali's ambassador to India, and so probably spends most of his time in India.

On the other hand a big question for Mali is "can the Church send in missionaries, either senior or young." My guess is senior missionaries will be the only ones for a while after any come. The Church still has a need for way more of those than it has.

One thing you did not address is how likely Mali is to allow missionaries to come in and under what circumstances. There are several reasons that Thailand and Cambodia essentially reached 2 stakes at the same time even though the Church did not enter Cambodia until over 20 years after it had entered Thailand, and that was just over 20 years ago.

At least as of 2012 of Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, only Cambodia gave the LDS Church official recognition as a Church. In Thailand the Church was recognized as a foundation. Missionaries in Cambodia have been able to get 2 year visas instead of the short term tourist visas used in Thailand, which have at times meant the misionaries had to leave the country to renew thei visas.

It has been realized by people who study the Church in its international setting that at least as late as 1975 the Church entered lots of places without getting full formal recognition as a Church and without understanding what the various recognitions of foundation and Church might mean.

There are cases where the Church's ability to upscale into a fully recognized Church, its ability to get misionaries full-term visas, and related issues have been hampered by starting on lower recognition level. On the other hand, in some places you cannot get official recognition to operate as a Church unless you have defined minimum membership numbers.

There are no easy answers to the balance here.

Mali is just shy of 95% Muslim. This is higher than Sengal (which is 92% Muslim) And well above Sierra Leone's 78% Muslim population. However by its constitution Mali is a secular state with religious freedom.

While French is known to many educated people in Mali, Bambara has a high potential of being a language the Church could translate the Book of Mormon and related materials into. there are 5 million native speakers, and an additional 10 million speakers. About 80% of hte population of Mali speaks Bambara.

Mike Johnson said...

I see Temple Rick has the Burleson Texas Stake created on September 11 with 6 Wards and 1 Branch:

Burleson Ward
Centennial Ward
Cleburne Ward
Joshua Ward
Mansfield 1st Ward
Mansfield 2nd Ward
Keene Branch (Marshallese)

Bryce said...
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Bryce said...

Thank you Matt, it was great to hear this update! I went back to Reaching the Nations [hardcopy :)] and noted with interest that "few African nations have had native members for as long as Mali but without an official Church presence." Hopefully that will change sooner than later given the information above. It was also interesting to read about the two other nations with member groups, very tantalizing to know which they are, let us know when/if you're ever able to confirm them Matt!

John Pack Lambert said...

Brother Samake's title is Malian ambassador to India. However he also in addition to India oversees Mali's relations with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.