What does persecution look like in Mauritania?
Mauritania is staunchly Islamic and Christian activities are severely restricted, making it difficult for Christians to express their faith. For those who convert from Islam, it’s almost impossible.
Christianity is viewed as a negative Western influence, and Christian converts face severe hostility both from the authorities and from their families. Apostasy is legally punishable by death, although there are no known examples of this in recent years—but the threat remains. Converts risk expulsion from the family home and loss of livelihood; they may even be forced to leave the country. The presence of Islamist groups also constitutes a threat to those who leave Islam. Baptisms can only be carried out secretly but many converts are reluctant to do this, fearing the awful consequences of discovery.
While Western foreign Christians are largely left alone, evangelism is strictly forbidden and can lead to prosecution, and activities are restricted to designated places of worship. Most Christians in Mauritania are from Sub-Saharan Africa and they can face discrimination in employment, both because of racial and faith-based discrimination. They face additional economic difficulties due to the government's "Arabization" policy, which leaves less room for foreign workers, especially Christian foreign workers.
Although the growth of the internet and social media helps converts to connect with other Christians, this is still fraught with difficulty due to slow technological development in many regions as well as a lack of privacy within families.
Tribal and family ties are especially strict in rural areas, but even in the capital and largest city, Nouakchott, the pressure on converts from Islam to Christianity can be high. Islamic militants are particularly active in the eastern border regions, posing a threat to Christians.
What has changed this year?
Very little. The country's strict Islamic culture means life remains highly dangerous for converts, and very challenging for foreign Christians, and there are no indications that this will improve in the short term. The overall political, economic and social situation in Mauritania makes the country conducive for radical Islam, meaning life for our Mauritanian family may yet get harder. However, a growing number of Mauritanians study abroad, while increased internet accessibility may also lead to more openness among young people.
Open Doors works with local partners and churches in North Africa to provide leadership and discipleship training, livelihood support, legal aid, trauma counselling, Bibles and pastoral care.
- Please pray that converts will be encouraged to press on in their faith, despite the challenge and dangers.
- Pray for fresh opportunities for believers to gather and share their faith with others.
- Ask for a softening of the country's staunchly Islamic views, leading to more religious freedom.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the bold faith of our Mauritanian family. Surround all believers with Your love, and give each one a glimpse into the deep and precious work You are doing in and through them. We pray especially for those experiencing severe pressure for knowing You – empower them to persevere in their faith and witness. Provide fresh opportunities for believers to gather and even tell others about You. Soften the staunchly Islamic views that shape Mauritanian society, that the country may move towards greater religious freedom. Pour Your Holy Spirit into every corner of Mauritania; may today be the day of salvation for many (2 Corinthians 6:2). Amen.