Renegade soldiers took over the palace of Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure in the capital city of Bamako, reportedly exchanging heavy fire during the offensive Wednesday night. The insurgents also captured Mali's state television station, taking to the airwaves to announce the end of Toure's "incompetent" regime, the suspension of Mali's constitution and closing of the country's borders.
Among issues alleged by military forces staging the coup: blame of Toure for lack of support in their fight against an armed rebellion in the north by Mali's nomadic Tuareg people.
The United States joined a chorus of voices -- including the United Nations, European Union and many of Mali's West African neighbors -- in condemning the coup and demanding return to constitutional rule. Mali's military pledged to hold elections once national unity is restored.
The American embassy in Bamako is advising U.S. citizens in Mali to stay indoors.
Brad Bessent, a Baptist pastor in South Carolina who has traveled to Mali as a missions volunteer, wrote on his blog March 23, "I still remember the last night of my first trip to Mali in 2007. A friend there said, 'Are you alright?' I said, 'How can anyone see what I have seen and be alright?' The hunger, the poverty, the fear, so many things that rip your heart.
"So when I heard the news early yesterday, I could not help but weep. Weep and pray," wrote Bessent, who leads the Church Unleashed @ Beulah in the Columbia, S.C., area. "I have too many friends there. I have seen so many beautiful children, and people. I have enjoyed their smiles. I have enjoyed their hospitality, even when they had so little to share."
Among missionaries' prayer requests for Mali:
-- that God will provide a peaceful resolution to the conflict, sparing further fighting and potential loss of life.
-- for wisdom among world leaders as they attempt to diffuse the situation.
-- for special protection for women and children in Mali as they are often targets of violence and abuse during periods of unrest.
-- that God will use the situation to open opportunities for the Gospel to provide hope to Malians who do not know Christ.
Don Graham is senior writer at the International Mission Board.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net