“What we are concerned about is that these groups have so far not targeted Christians specifically. The situation has changed in the last few months, and for this reason, we have launched the alarm,” Fr Dembelé.
The menacing presence of Jihadist groups is growing in southern Mali, previously spared much of the violence prevalent in the north. The abduction of Sr Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti, of Colombian origin, of the congregation of the Franciscan sisters of Mary Immaculate, seems to have been a turning point.
Sister Cecilia was abducted in Karangasso, Koutiala. Karangasso is part of an area that was previously of no interest to the Jihadists. About the fate of Sister Cecilia, Fr Dembélé says: “Unfortunately we have no news, and we have no contact with her kidnappers.”
A 2015 Mali peace accord signed by separatists and all parties to the armed crisis which started in 2012 is failing to take hold. The country has been in a crisis ever since rebels declared the independence of northern Mali (Azawad). According to the International Crisis Group, Mali’s instability is now affecting countries of the Sahel. It is spilling over into Burkina Faso and spreading to Niger and even to Senegal.