Documentary Review: The Sereer

John FarrellBy John Farrell7 Minutes

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

There’s only one way to God and it’s by accepting Jesus Christ into our heart and asking Him to forgive us for our sins. As Christians we live by this principle and believe in the Holy Trinity and that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected.

Throughout the world, there are followers of other religions who believe in God and know of Jesus, but don’t fully understand His transformational power, grace, and love. They don’t understand His connection to God – and that He is one with God.

Muslims are taught to live their life according to the five pillars of Islam:

  • Testimony of faith,
  • Prayer,
  • Giving to the needy,
  • Fasting during the month of Ramadan, and
  • Making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

They are taught to believe that Jesus was just another prophet like Muhammad and that there was very little difference between the two. In the view of some Muslims, Jesus and Muhammad taught the same lessons and following either of them will lead to heaven. When Jesus says in John 14:16 that “He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you,” some Muslims misinterpret that Jesus is talking about Muhammad. However, we know that He is talking about the Holy Spirit.

Another misconception among some Muslim groups is that there is no difference between the Quran (the Islamic holy book) and the Bible.

Ultimately, some Muslim tribes don’t see any difference between their faith and Christianity because we all pray to God.

What can we do as Christians when we hear mistruths such as these?

The answer is simple: discipleship.

Washing feet, caring for, eating together, sharing stories, singing, teaching, playing soccer, and even wrestling are just a few of the ways a group of Americans used to disciple with several villages of the Sereer people in Senegal.

This is the subject of the eye-opening documentary, The Sereer, which chronicles the efforts of a group of individuals, spear-headed by short-term missionaries Alton and Barbara Lanier and sponsored by Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, S.C., as they spread the word of Jesus Christ to a group of Muslims. The Laniers have visited the Sereer about a dozen times and have established a trust and friendship with members of several of the villages, such as Soulemayne, whose father was his village’s former chief before he passed away.

Senegal is a nation of more than 16 million people located in West Africa and borders Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and The Gambia. There are 36 languages and one dominant religion – Islam. Of the Sengalese people, 6% are Animistic (spirit worship), 2% are Roman Catholic, and 92% are Muslim.

The Sereer tribe is more than one million strong spread out over 15,000 square miles of sub-Saharan desert in hundreds of tiny villages.

While the group of Americans have high hopes, they know they will only be able to reach a small percentage of the Sereer people. While the Sereer are respectful of outsiders’ religious beliefs, they are devout in their Muslim faith and won’t be swayed easily. One member of the missionary team provided some insight into this: “They’re as strong in their faith as we are in ours.”

“If you’ve come here to change our faith, you will never do that and you’re really wasting your time coming,” Soulemayne, who is Muslim, told Alton. “If you choose to share [your religion] with our children, you can share with our children. They can believe whatever they want to believe. Perhaps they are the group that will believe your message.”

For the Laniers and the rest of their group they knew a door had just opened wide for them—they needed to reach the children.

Although Soulemayne allowed the missionaries to introduce their children to Jesus and possibly convert some of them, it can be a dangerous reality. Some Muslims who denounce their faith and accept Jesus Christ into their hearts can face persecution and even death at the hands of community and family members. Unfortunately, the Sereer people are not immune to this; therefore, some Muslims living among the Sereer secretly want to convert to Christianity, but never do so for fear of being baptized and found out by those who would act violently toward them.

As the missionaries realize and the documentary exhibits, many of the Sereer have an eagerness to please God and they’re doing everything they can, but the one thing that matters most—seek a relationship with Jesus.

The Sereer isn’t a documentary made to shock and dazzle you with twists, glamour, and special effects. What it does do, and does pretty well, is share a glimpse of life in a foreign country and, more importantly, into the mindset of Muslims who don’t fully understand who Jesus is.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).

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