Republic of Djibouti
April 24

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Area 23,200 A hot, dry, desert enclave between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Some have called it 'Hell's waiting room.'

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 637,634 +1.20% 27 per sq. km.
2010 785,170 +2.07% 34 per sq. km.
2025 1,026,235 +1.61% 44 per sq. km.

Capital Djibouti 354,548. Urbanites 83%.


Somali 61.7%. In three major clans in southern half of the country: Issa 213,000; Gadaboursi 96,000; Issaq 85,000. Many are recent refugees from Somalia.

Afar (Danakil) 20%. In northern half.

Arab 6%. Mostly Yemeni, some Omani and Saudi.

Other 4%. French 20,000; Greek 1,600.

Refugees 8.3%. Ethiopians 50,000; Somalis.

Literacy 46%, far lower in practice. Official languages French and Arabic. Trade languages Somali, Afar. All languages 4. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 1NT.


Lack of water, industry and natural resources make the country's viability dependent on French aid and the large military base. Half the GNP is derived from the French presence. The port of Djibouti and rail link to landlocked Ethiopia is its only major economic asset. Unemployment over 50%. HDI 0.412; 157th/174. Public debt 52% of GNP. Income/person $790 (2.5% of USA).


The French took control of the area in 1884 because of its strategic location, but the boundaries straddled a centuries-old conflict zone between the Afars and the Somalis. This ancient conflict is still alive, and has affected political life since independence in 1977. Civil war raged between them in 1991-94, with the Somalis becoming dominant in the capital and government. There were multi-party elections in 1999. Only the large French military presence prevented Djibouti from being dragged into the war between neighbouring Eritrea and Ethiopia and clan wars in Somalia.


Islam has been declared the state religion, but conformity is not enforced and other religions are accorded considerable freedom.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 93.90 598,738 +1.2%
Christian 4.67 30,000 +1.5%
non-Religious/other 1.32 8,417 +1.5%
Baha'i 0.09 574 -0.9%
Hindu 0.02 128 +1.3%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 3 0.07 0 +8.1%
Independent 1 0.03 0 +10.0%
Catholic 1 1.40 9 +2.2%
Orthodox 2 3.17 20 +1.0%

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Ethiopian Orthodox O 20 11,976 20,000
Catholic C 7 4,890 8,900
Ethiopian Protestants P 5 150 300
Reformed P   50 100
Other denominations [3]   4 259 480
Total Christians [7]   36 17,325 30,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 0.1 1 +5.8%
Charismatic 0.1 1 +2.6%

Missionaries to Djibouti
P,I,A 31 in 6 agencies.
C 53.

Challenges for Prayer

1 Djibouti, Africa's third smallest state, is a haven of calm in a stormy region. It is also a key base for Christian witness. Pray that present freedoms may not be eroded by the politics of the Horn of Africa nor by the Islamist voice which gets louder as the economic situation declines.

2 The only legally recognized Protestant witness is that of the French Protestant Church, which began in 1960. The FPC has given hospitality to Ethiopian, Malagasy and local believer groups and mission agencies entering the country. It also sponsors a number of social projects among refugees and the poor. The FPC and other bodies have formed a Council of Churches and Missions. Pray for continued effective cooperation and unity among Christians.

3 Ministry specifically to the Afars and the Somalis commenced in 1975 with the arrival of the RSTI with 15 workers in 2000. The US Mennonites, Baptists and Life International have joined them in this outreach. Mission work is a tough challenge in this hot, dry but often humid land, and working conditions are extreme. Pray for their ministries in education, public health, literature, Bible translation, literacy and youth work. Through these, opportunities to witness abound – pray that contacts may lead to disciples for Jesus. Pray for the calling of other long-term workers. Pray also for the long-awaited spiritual breakthroughs; every advance has been strongly contested by the enemy of souls.

4 Ethiopian refugees are often destitute. Many are Orthodox Christian. There are also five lively evangelical congregations among them, many with a strong desire to witness. Pray that they may be both relevant and effective in that witness.

5 The few Somali and Afar believers are often isolated and suffer many pressures from relatives. Most of them are jobless and some are illiterate. Pray for effective use of literacy programmes and the Scriptures in Somali and Afar. The Somali believers are meeting regularly for Bible study together. Pray that from these believers, leaders for congregations may be raised up.

6 The less evangelized peoples of Djibouti need prayer:

a) The Afars' main territory is in Ethiopia and Eritrea where there is little witness at present. A minority are nomadic. There is no known church among them.

b) The Somalis are a small branch of the larger population in Somalia and Ethiopia. The Somalis in Djibouti are a key for the evangelization of their kinsmen across the border (SIM).

c) Arabs, both local and Yemeni, need a specific approach directed to their spiritual needs.

d) The ethnic minorities – Greek, French and Indians, have little exposure to vibrant Christian witness.

7 Christian support ministries:

a) Bible translation and distribution. The Afar NT is published and the OT is nearing completion (RSTI/UBS). There is a key project to record both Afar Scripture songs and the entire NT on tape; a vital means of communicating God's Word in a largely illiterate population. RSTI also runs a Christian bookstore.

b) Radio broadcasts by FEBA are a key ministry in Afar and Somali (3.5 hours/week). TWR also broadcasts in Arabic and Somali.

c) The JESUS film has been widely used in Somali; the Afar version is nearing completion. Pray for long-term impact.

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