April 15, 2002

Baptists called to pray for Tuareg
___By Mark Kelly
___International Mission Board
___RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--The name of one unreached people group in West Africa literally
means "abandoned by God."
___On May 19, Southern Baptists will ask God to help that people group, the Tuareg, know he loves them.
___Once Tuareg camel caravans transported everything from salt to slaves across the Sahara. But now the nomadic people group follows their declining herds through barren regions of Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in search of scarce pasture. Many Tuareg have fled the ravages of drought to pitch their tents on the fringes of cities like Tombouctou, Mali.
___The Tuareg face many uncertainties, not the least of which is how to survive in a world less and less hospitable to the nomad's lifestyle. One thing, however, is certain--99.9 percent never have heard of salvation in Jesus Christ.
___That is one reason Christians will focus on the Tuareg on the Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization.
___The Tuaregs' nomadic lifestyle makes it hard to accurately count them, and population estimates range anywhere from 500,000 to 3 million. The name identifies a collection of ethnic groups--Arabs, Berbers and Bellas--who speak a common language, Tamashek.
___The Tuaregs' wandering ways also have kept them from being staunch adherents to the Muslim religion. Because of this, their Muslim neighbors named them "Tuareg," literally "abandoned by God."
___Forced from the desert by drought, the Tuareg now are learning to farm and sell crafts. A new generation is growing up and learning the softer ways of city life.
___But one Tuareg Christian sees these difficult circumstances as God's way of reaching his people with the gospel.
___"The drought is a way to pierce the strongholds of the people," said this believer who cannot be identified by name. "The droughts bring the people in from the desert. It makes the people change, and when there is change there is an open door for the gospel. The door may only be open a crack, but it is still open."
___Another Tuareg believer envisions a day when his people will be free in Christ.
___"I had a dream ... that heaven was a great desert and in that great desert, we finally found the freedom we search so desperately for," he said. "It was so beautiful, and I believe that one day it will come true."

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