|Republic of Guinea-Bissau|
Area 36,125 sq.km. Coastal state wedged between Senegal and Guinea.
Capital Bissau 223,000. Urbanites 30%.
Over 27 ethnic groups.
West Atlantic (15 groups) 56.5%. Balanta 300,000; Manjako 113,000; Papel 109,000; Mankanya 43,000; Beafada 39,000; Bijago 24,500; Jola/Felupe 17,000, Nalu 10,800.
Fulbe (5 groups) 25.4%. 308,000.
Mande (5 groups) 14.9%. Mandingo (Maninka or Mandinga) 166,500; Sarakole 5,500; Susu 4,000.
Other 3.2%. Creole, Cape Verdians, Guineans, Europeans.
Literacy 25%. Official language Portuguese. National language Portuguese Creole, spoken by as many as 60% of the population. All languages 27. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi, 5NT, 3 por., 6 w.i.p.
Little developed in colonial times, devastated by the long war of independence, and inhibited by subsequent socialist policies. One of the world's poorest countries, but in the past decade there has been a notable increase in commerce in the country. The main exports are fish, cashew nuts and tropical hardwoods. HDI 0.343; 168th/174. Public debt 317% of GNP. Income/person $250 (0.9% of USA).
Independent of Portugal in 1974. One-party revolutionary government until 1994, when multi-party elections took place. In 1998 a military uprising occurred against the President, which led to a new President and government being elected in 2000, but this did not settle the underlying national differences.
Under Portuguese rule the Catholic Church functioned almost as an arm of the colonial government, and Evangelicals were forbidden or discriminated against. Since independence, the measure of freedom for Christian activities has steadily increased. Until 1990 only one Protestant mission (WEC) was allowed in the country, but since then several more have entered. There is currently freedom of religion for all groups, despite some low-level persecution of converts. There is significant syncretism between Islam or Catholicism and African traditional religions, such that it is often difficult to give accurate figures.
1 Praise the Lord for the present receptivity to the gospel. Unlike some neighbouring countries, Guinea-Bissau enjoys religious freedom and is open to evangelism. During the civil war of 1998-99 evangelical Christians played an important part in distributing food in Bissau and in the south. They also assisted with transport when people were fleeing Bissau. Evangelical and Catholic leaders joined together in attempting to bring reconciliation between the warring factions. The Church is therefore viewed with a good deal of respect by the government. Pray that the Church might continue to give a lead in showing practical love and compassion and in encouraging peace and reconciliation.
2 Praise the Lord that He used the civil strife for redemptive purposes. Due to the recent war, the majority of Christians in Bissau were forced to flee to the interior. There they took the opportunity to evangelize and preach the Bible. Many people believed and many churches were planted as a result. Pray that these new Christians might receive good teaching and be built up in their faith.
1 Leadership in the evangelical churches is mature, with a real vision for evangelism and missions. There are still, however, many churches in the interior without any pastor. If they do have a pastor, he is often responsible for as many as 10 other congregations as well. Pray for others to be called to the ministry. Pray also for the Bible Institute, run by the Evangelical Church to train indigenous pastors. Ask the Lord for more national teachers, and that the costs of the Institute and support for the students would be increasingly met by national believers.
2 Praise the Lord for an increase in the number of missionaries in the country, but there are still few actually concentrating on reaching the unevangelized. WEC has 38 workers committed to Guinea-Bissau, working at 8 centres among 9 peoples. Also involved are AoG (12), Kairos (11) and YWAM (8, mostly short-term). Pray for reinforcements and for the health and safety of those already on the field. Not only are living conditions tough, but they are involved in a spiritual battle.
3 The national church is strongest among the Balanta and Papel, then the Bijago and Manjako peoples. There are a small number of Christians among the other animist and Muslim peoples. Pray that the national church might catch a missions vision, and receive the courage and gifts to be able to reach out to these groups with the gospel.
a) The Muslim Fulbe and Mandingo. These are large dominant peoples in many West African countries with a rich history and much influence. They are largely responsible for bringing Islam to Guinea-Bissau; may they become so for the spread of the good news. The Mandingos tend to be more closed to the gospel than the Fulbe, so that while there are now some Fulbe fellowships in Bafata and the north east, there are only a handful of scattered Mandingo believers.
b) Smaller Muslim peoples. The Beafada, Susu, Nalu, Sarakole, Jakanka, Pajadinka and Badyara have had very little, if any, work concentrated on them using their language and culture. Pray for ministry among them, and that fruit might be forthcoming.
c) Traditional religion peoples. Praise the Lord that there are Christians from amongst the Felupe, Bayote, Mankanya and Mansoanka. Pray that these Christians might see their responsibility to reach out to their own. Pray also for the gospel to reach the other small, and often overlooked, peoples.
5 There is one Christian bookshop in the capital owned by a national believer. In an oral and largely illiterate society, books are not seen as a priority especially when they are expensive. Pray for the owner of the bookshop to have wisdom in choosing the right materials to stock. Pray also that national authors would write books appropriate and beneficial to Guinea-Bissau Christians.
6 The publishing of the whole Bible in Portuguese Creole in 1999 was an important point in the history of the Church in Guinea-Bissau. There are also New Testaments in Papel, Bijago, Fulbe and Mandingo, but they are not widely used. Pray for wisdom and vision in knowing how best to make use of these translations in oral societies. Pray for the continued translation work of the Balanta and Manjako NT.
7 Church primary schools have been established by the Evangelical Churches together with some missions (WEC, Kairos and YWAM). These meet a real need where the state schools are not coping. Pray that these schools may not only provide good education, but also be places where the gospel is taught and children receive Christ.
a) A Christian radio programme is broadcast every week on the national radio. Pray for the producers to be able to improve its quality and for continued permission to broadcast. Pray for a Fulbe Christian radio station which is being prepared in the Bafata area.
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