If you look at a map of Africa there are a huge number of countries where French is the national language. Starting with Senegal in the West and stretching down to the Democratic Republic of Congo most of the countries (Nigeria and Ghana are the main exceptions but there are a couple of others) were former colonies of the French or Belgium.
Though the church is growing enormously across Africa, the Francophone countries often seem to lag behind the rest of the continent. There are a number of reasons why this might be.
Islam is an important factor in the northern countries of this area, such as Mali, Chad and Niger. It is hard for Christianity to gain a toe hold in countries which are predominantly Islamic.
There are far fewer well trained church leaders and resources for Bible study and teaching available in the Francophone world. In English speaking Africa the church has access to the huge amount of resources published in the US and the UK. Francophone Africa on the other hand is actually the major producer of Christian literature in French.
Political instability is also another important factor. Over the last few years there have been serious problems in Côte d’Ivoire, Chad and Central African Republic, while the ongoing instability in Eastern Democratic Republic is causing more loss of life than any other conflict in the world (while gathering far less publicity than some).
These factors (among others) also play a role in slowing down Bible translation and around half of the languages that still need translation in Africa are located in Francophone Countries. From Tuesday to Friday this week there will be a major consultation of church leaders and theologians from across Francophone Africa meeting in Cotonou, Benin to discuss the way forward for Bible translation in this part of the world. The organisation of the consultation has been fraught with difficulty and it is clear that our enemy is not at all happy that this gathering is taking place.
Father we pray for the people of Francophone Africa. We ask you for good and just governments in this part of the world so that people can live in peace and so that your gospel can flourish. We pray for bold and clear witness to your truth in the face of the growth of Islam. This week, we pray in particular for the leaders who are meeting in Cotonou and we ask that you would give them clarity of thought and unity of purpose so that you word can be made available to the peoples of this region.