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June 2, 2009

Senegal, a Brief Country Profile & Prayer Guide


Senegal is located at Africa’s most western point between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania, with another tiny country, The Gambia, almost entirely enclosed within it. Its name is said to have originated from the Wolof name for the dugout canoes used by fishermen. Today the brightly painted, specially designed pirogues are at the heart of one of Senegal’s main national sports, canoe racing, which takes place along various stretches of the coast. The dugouts are still used by fishermen who navigate the waters of the 250-mile long coastline in the age-old tradition that is the most common activity after farming.

Senegal’s modern capital city of Dakar is situated on the tip of the Cape Verde peninsula. It’s vibrant and full of local and international activity. Here you will find businessmen rubbing shoulders with tourists and traditionally dressed Senegalese amid the gleaming hotels, cafes, colorful open-air markets, and the medina (old quarter). Just two miles offshore lies Gorée, an island that was the most important slave depot in West Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries.

It’s possible to enjoy sunshine almost all year round on hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches, estuaries, mangrove swamps, savannah, and a semi-desert in the north. The Casamance region, a strip of land stretching from east to west across the country below The Gambia, boasts some of the most enjoyable beaches in West Africa. It is heavily visited by tourists due to its tropical splendor with lush forests, coconut palm groves, brilliant flame trees and bougainvillea, and warm waters brushing endlessly along the sandy beaches.

A few interesting facts about Senegal:
• The main industries include food processing, mining, cement, artificial fertilizer, chemicals, textiles, refining imported petroleum, and tourism. Exports include fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, groundnuts, and calcium phosphate, and the principal foreign market is India at 26.7 percent of exports (as of 1998). Other foreign markets include the US, Italy, and the UK.
• Over 11 million people call Senegal home. 70% live in rural areas while approximately 2.4 million people live in or near the capital of Dakar.
• The official language of Senegal is French, but nearly 44% of the population’s first language is Wolof.
• Senegal is a secular state with freedom of religion despite the large Muslim majority.

Specific ways to pray for the country of Senegal:

Praise God that Senegal allows freedom of religion. However, the task is great as 92% of the population adheres to Islam. It is the religion of almost all of the Wolof, Fulbe, and Mande peoples. Pray for new receptivity to the gospel message and the continued preservation of religious freedom.

Evangelical believers are few and the rate of growth is slow. Church planting is a slow, arduous task. Believers are scattered, poorly taught and under constant pressure from Muslim or animistic relatives to conform. Pray for stable congregations to emerge. Pray for strong Christian leaders. Pray for a strong church with a backbone of Christian families to be planted within each ethnic group.

Missions in Senegal have struggled for years without much fruit in the adult population, yet among young people the results have been more encouraging. Pray for NTM, WEC, YWAM, IMB-SBC, UWM, CBI, SIL, and AoG and their work with the young people throughout Senegal. Pray that efforts to plant churches will be fruitful. Pray for the missionary teams and their leadership in an unresponsive field.

Major areas of the country are still very much pioneer situations:
• Dakar is the home to a quarter of Senegal’s population. Every ethnic group is represented there. Dakar is the mission base for most agencies, but only a few missionaries are actually committed to church planting. Pray for this city to become a source of gospel light for the whole country.
• The Senegal River Valley in the north and northeast is a major development zone. Only a few missionaries are working on this strategic frontier with closed Mauritania, among the Tukulor, Maure, Wolof, Fulbe, and Soninke (WEC, Lutherans, IMB-SBC, YWAM and others). There are some small groups of believers but no viable church in the entire area, and up-river only a handful of missionaries.
• The central and eastern areas of Senegal are sparsely populated and unevangelized, as is the territory along the frontier of inland Gambia. There is an AoG church in Tambacounda, but the members are mostly Bassaris who have migrated there from another area seeking employment.
• Young people. Many have flocked to the cities in search of education and employment. Their commitment to conservative Islam is not so great, and YWAM, Gideons, and some churches are seeking to reach them. IMB-SBC, UWM, and others have youth work in Dakar. The small IFES group in Dakar is fervent, but most of the members are non-Senegalese. Recent political unrest and student dissatisfaction have restricted evangelistic outreach. Pray for an impact for God to be made on children and young people.

Bible translation
is still progressing. Six New Testament versions are available in Wolof, Serer, Mandinka, Tukulor, Fulacunda, and Bassari. Pray for wide distribution and a deep impact on the readers. Work on 19 other New Testament versions is in progress right now. Pray for the translators. The Old Testament is being translated into Wolof now and plans are in place for Tukulor and Fulacunda versions too.

Media related ministries needing prayer include:
• Literature. Several agencies are seeking to publish and distribute affordable Christian literature in French. Reading rooms have been a major outreach tool to Muslims in many urban areas. Pray for meaningful conversations with the readers. Pray for the publication and distribution of effective Christian literature.
• The JESUS film is being used widely all over the country. Currently, it is being shown in 10 different languages with another 8 languages being prepared right now.
• Christian radio is being broadcast on national and local stations. Pray that churches and missions will make full use of this tool. HCJB is currently broadcasting 15 minutes in Wolof 5 days/week. Pray for additional programming and radio time to be secured for additional broadcasting.

We hope that you will join us as we pray over the country of Senegal and its precious people.

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