What does persecution look like in Maldives?
The government of the Maldives likes to boast that the country is 100% Sunni Muslim, so any deviation is taken seriously. No religious minorities are recognised by the state, and every citizen is considered Muslim – so Christian converts have to follow Jesus in the greatest secrecy. If discovered, they are very likely to be reported to Muslim leaders or the authorities, and can be stripped of their citizenship or even given the death penalty.
Even foreign Christians working in the islands' tourist sector are closely watched by the authorities – they can only meet up for worship or weddings in a private place (such as their country's embassy) and must not express or discuss their faith with local citizens. If they do, they may be fined, deported or even imprisoned for a number of years. There are elements of violent Islamic extremism in the Maldives, including fighters returning from places like Syria, who pose a danger to suspected Christian believers, and the country is struggling to cope with the size of this challenge.
The Maldives is made up of very close-knit communities, making it very difficult to talk to or meet up with anybody secretly. Christian faith must be kept so private that two members of the same family could be believers without the other ever knowing. Mutual encouragement and fellowship is a huge challenge, and many Christians – and members of other religious minorities – will attempt to leave and start a new life abroad.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Converts to Christianity from a Muslim background face the most severe persecution in the Maldives as, officially, they do not exist in the country. Anyone leaving Islam will lose their citizenship.
What has changed this year?
The situation for Christians in the Maldives did not change significantly, and the Maldives continues to be seen as 100% Sunni Muslim. Due to the re-opening of the islands for tourism, more migrant workers are returning, as are the tourists the country's economy depends on, which means there are more Christians from other countries in the Maldives.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Maldives?
Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in the Maldives.
How can you pray for the Maldives?
- Please pray for religious freedom to come to the Maldives.
- Pray that believers find ways to safely communicate and access Bible materials.
- Pray for Christians feeling isolated, that will know God's presence and love.
Lord God, we pray that the leaders of the Maldives will soon allow freedom of religion and recognise that faith cannot be forced. We pray that You will make ways for secret believers to safely communicate with one another and access Bible materials to deepen their knowledge and faith in You. Do miracles in whole families so that husbands, wives and children can joyfully follow You together. Amen.