Senegal is an atypical African country that defies most people’s expectations. Home to at least twelve diverse ethnic groups and one of the most stable democracies in Africa, the nation has fostered a reputation of mediation, tolerance, and acceptance. This is rare for most of the African continent. The capital, Dakar, sits on the westernmost point of Africa overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, which feeds both its fishing and tourist economies. As a Muslim country and black nation, Senegal acts as a cultural and political bridge between the indigenous African and Islamic worlds.
With a mostly agricultural economy, Senegal has been devastated by droughts, and as these dry periods push citizens from rural to urban settings, social issues such as alcoholism and drug use have permeated the population. Though the tradition is slowly dying away, the practice of genital mutilation is still performed in spite of government reform. Also, the nation is plagued by multiple health problems, including intestinal and parasitic infections and sexually transmitted diseases. Due to lack of sanitation, medical personnel, and adequate medications, many of these preventable diseases result in death. A growing practice of sending children to live in schools that, in turn, disperse the children to the streets to beg for money and food has resulted in a malnourished, uneducated, and forgotten generation. Even though the nation prides itself in its ideals of acceptance, the Diola tribe of the Casamance region has engaged in violent revolt against northern Islamic neighbors.
Due to the level of religious freedom, a source of pride for the Senegalese, Christians are able to worship freely and evangelize. The New Testament has recently been translated into seven languages and seventeen other translations are in the works. Though ninety percent of the population claims the Islamic faith, Christianity is starting to take hold as hearts remain open in the Senegalese people. God’s at work in the nation, and He is moving mightily.