While civil war has forced Christians to flee Northern Mali, they have already begun new ministry work serving other refugees in the South.

For eight years, we at She Is Safe have been working with temporary wives, abandoned children, and the villagers of Northern Mali. In the past months, we have continued to partner with local Christians as civil war broke out, and we watched as tribal and Islamist groups took control of the area around Timbuktu, where our work was based.

Fearing religious oppression and violence, our partners fled the North as refugees, leaving behind homes and possessions. The reports that emerged out of Timbuktu in the following weeks confirmed their fears. Rebels hijacked vehicles, looted homes, and imposed strict Islamic rule on the remaining residents of the city.

This week, an article in the New York Times brought Mali’s civil war into the international spotlight by offering a glimpse of life in under Sharia in Timbuktu. The article reads:

Women are now forced to wear full, face-covering veils. Music is banned from the radio. Cigarettes are snatched from the mouths of pedestrians. And the look of the ancient mud-brick town is changing. A centuries-old monument, the shrine of a 15th-century saint, has been defaced; bars have been demolished; and black flags have been hung around town to honor Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, the radical Islamist movement that emerged from the desert and turned life upside down.

You can read the full article here. While Christians have fled the region, they have already begun working to care for other refugees in the Southern city of Bamako. We are currently working with them to care for those who have been displaced by this conflict, and we will continue to support their work until the nation stabilizes and we can begin rebuilding what violence has torn apart.