|Republic of Benin|
Area 112,600 sq.km. A long, narrow country wedged between Nigeria and Togo.
Capital Porto-Novo 265,276. Other major city Cotonou 709,250. Urbanites 43%.
About 58 ethnic groups.
Southern Peoples 69.2%. Fon 1,750,000; Yoruba(10) 580,000; Aja 480,000; Ayizo 283,000; Gun 243,000; Ife 176,000; Nagot 175,000; Gen 158,000; Waci 138,000; Maxi 87,000; Tofin 76,000; Xweda 52,000.
Northern Peoples 30.2%. Bariba 425,000; Fulbe (Fulani) 339,000; Ditammari (Somba) 150,000; Boko 87,000; Burba 85,000; Pila (Yom) 74,000; Lamba 69,000; Nateni 66,000; Gurma 62,000; Tem (Kotokoli) 50,000; Lokpa 50,000.
Other 0.6%. French and other non-Africans.
Migrants from Niger and Burkina Faso may number up to 4% of the population.
Literacy 37%. Official language French. Trade languages Fon in south, Dendi in north. All languages 51. Languages with Scriptures 6Bi 9NT 1por 12w.i.p.
Still largely functions as a satellite economy of Nigeria. Free-market reforms after failed experiments with Marxism have helped Benin make significant economic progress in the last decade. HDI 0.421; 155th/174. Public debt 62.5% of GNP. Income/person $328 (1.2% of USA).
Independent from France in 1960. After seven coups and one Marxist regime, a multi-party democracy was formed through elections in 1991. The government has since remained stable under the elected President.
Complete religious freedom under the present government. The President actively encourages Christian ministry, although all religions are free to practice and propagate their faiths.
Widespread syncretism among Muslims and nominal Christians means ethnic religions could be nearer 80%.
1 Praise God for spiritual breakthroughs in the 1990s. The civil government is facing up to its challenges and responsibilities, and there have been many churches planted in previously unevangelized groups. Benin, a country which was once the source of many slaves, is now beginning to experience freedom through Christ.
2 The President is a born-again Christian after years of flirting with communism and the occult. Often called the “pastor-president”, he actively advocates Christian ministry in the country. Pray that he may not compromise his testimony, and that his eventual successor may also encourage evangelization.
3 Church growth is occurring in all regions. The 1990s may well be seen as the decade of breakthrough for church growth: in AoG churches in the north (Natimba, Burba, Belime, Fulbe, etc.) and south (Mina, Nago, Aja, Gun and now the Fon); UEEB/SIM in the north and centre (Lokpa, Bariba, Cabe, Fulbe, Boko, Ditammari and Fon, etc. and now Dassa, Dendi, and Sola); IMB-SBC in the south; and Evangelical Baptists in the far north (Dendi and Gurmantche). Pray for the vision to reach out to every unreached people and community, and the strategy to implement it.
1 Government corruption. Pray that the commitment to genuine democracy might be honoured and the endemic corruption in the country tackled. Pray also that all of the leaders may work for the good of the people rather than for self-enrichment.
2 Less-reached peoples. No people in Benin has a Christian majority and evangelical believers are few. Benin has Africa's highest percentage of followers of traditional religions and is the least evangelized non-Muslim country in Africa south of the Sahara. Specific peoples for prayer:
a) The Fon are an influential, strategic people in Benin. It was from Fon animism that Voodoo developed. The Fon have a significant, but nominal, Christian minority (20%), but live in fear and superstition. However, vigorous church-planting and prayer efforts have yielded much fruit in the 1990s, with the work of several missions experiencing rapid church growth (including AoG, SIM, SBC). But leaders are desperately needed for the new believers, as there is only one trained worker for every 10 Fon churches.
b) The Gbe peoples include the Fon and 19 other related people groups, forming a complex medley of unreached and unevangelized peoples with a population of over 3 million. Among most of these peoples few indigenous evangelical churches exist.
c) The Nagot are located on the southeastern border with Nigeria in the region of Ketou. Until recently, the Nagot had little exposure to the gospel. However, missionary efforts are beginning to bear fruit with indigenous evangelical churches planted among them.
e) The Ife (176,000) straddle the borders of Benin and Togo and are currently experiencing rapid growth in church planting. Ife churches are reaching out to neighbouring villages that have no gospel witness and bringing them the Word of Life.
f) Muslim peoples. Recently IMB-SBC workers have started ministry among the Anii and Mokolé. Little work has been done among the more urban Dyerma, Hausa and Mossi. Islam is expanding into many central and northern peoples, but among the Fulbe (Fula) there has been a breakthrough with more than 2,000 coming to Christ (SIM, AoG).
g) The one million urbanites of the two capitals. From the 1980s to the 1990s the evangelical community grew five-fold to over 4,000, but the majority have still not been reached. Nearly a fifth of the population is Muslim, and no one is working full time specifically for their evangelization. SIM and a number of Nigerian missions are doing urban evangelism in several cities and SIM is targeting the many government workers.
h) A Benin national research team (ARCEB) is engaged in making a strategic survey of the country, its churches and peoples which could have major impact on church growth strategy. Pray for a successful conclusion and application in mobilizing the Church for the unreached.
3 The Church in Benin needs leaders. The recent church growth has yielded many new Christians, but has led to a shortage of trained leaders to teach the Bible and demonstrate a life of holiness. Many tribes and villages are asking for pastors or missionaries to show them a biblical Christianity to replace their often-syncretized faith. Pray for the teachers and students at the AoG Bible Institute (32 students), the ICI Correspondence School, the one French and seven vernacular primary level Bible Schools (200 students) run by the UEEB, and 300+ studying in a TEE programme. These vital schools need general staff and lecturers, as well as bursaries and scholarships for the students, who are usually impoverished.
4 Missions. Only since 1946 has the centre and north been penetrated by missions. The largest of these are SIM (71), EMS-Nigeria, IMB-SBC (20), SIL/WBT (19), Evangelical Baptists (8), AoG (4). Considering the needs of the country, the small church-planting missionary force must be increased. SIM runs the only evangelical mission hospital and has a ministry of rural development.
5 Young people are now a core element of the Benin church. Conversions through youth centres, camps and the extensive use of the JESUS film together with good follow-up has often resulted in churches in both towns and rural areas. Praise the Lord that there is student witness throughout the whole of Benin. There are more than 700 active members of the GREEB(IFES) student groups.
6 Bible translation is still a major need. Almost half of Benin's 51 languages are without a Bible or NT. SIM translation teams are working in seven languages, the AoG in seven, and SIL in four. Pray for the inter-mission linguistic centre which helps facilitate translation work by the provision of technology and resources. Other literature is also being translated and printed: TEE materials, Bible commentaries, etc. Pray that this might help the church to become biblically literate.
c) Radio. After Radio ELWA (Liberia) was destroyed, Radio Parakou, a government owned station, began to broadcast gospel messages with some results. There is daily programming in Fon, Bariba and Fulfulde, and weekly broadcasts in French. There is also progress in developing a shortwave station in Benin. Maranatha is a full-time Christian FM station broadcasting from Cotonou.
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