How many Christians are there in the Maldives?
There are estimated to be a very small number of Christians in the Maldives. The vast majority of people living there are Muslim.
How are Christians persecuted in the Maldives?
The Maldives is an island paradise popular for welcoming tourists from around the world – but the welcome sadly doesn’t extend to Maldivians who choose to follow Jesus.
This nation of 1,000-plus islands declares itself to be 100% Muslim, so being a citizen of the Maldives means being a Muslim. Within the country’s close-knit communities, any deviation from Islamic values is easily spotted and reported to the authorities or Muslim leaders, so those who leave Islam must keep their faith secret. It's so dangerous that husbands, wives and children may not even know of each other's faith. If discovered, believers may be stripped of their citizenship, isolated from society and lose their state benefits for violating Sharia (Islamic law).
While foreign Christians – who mostly work in the tourist sector – have slightly more freedom than converts, their gatherings are strictly monitored and controlled by the authorities. That said, many prefer not to organise meetings, for fear of the repercussions. Foreign Christians are strictly forbidden from sharing their faith with Maldivians. Scrutiny of expats has increased following a decree issued by the Islamic Ministry in 2022, which advised travel agents and those handling such workers to make sure they know to respect and abide by the Islamic values and laws of the Maldives.
What’s life like for Christians in the Maldives?
Given the extremely strict interpretation of Islam in the Maldives, Maldivian Christian women must be secret believers to avoid severe persecution. If a Christian woman or girl is discovered to be a Christian, she risks being pressured into marriage and exposed to domestic violence in an attempt to force her to reject her new-found faith. Despite the close-knit social control on the islands, abuse, rape and sexual harassment are surprisingly common. This can be used as a tool for persecution against Christian women and girls. Within society, there is an expectation to adhere to the Islamic dress code – choosing not to would immediately arouse suspicion and lead to harassment.
If a Maldivian man or boy is found to be a secret Christian, he is likely to face physical violence, harassment, threats and even imprisonment (although there have been no such cases in recent years). Given this pressure, many have chosen to leave the country and live abroad, if they can afford to do so.
How can I help Christians in the Maldives?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in the Maldives. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in the Maldives.
Lord Jesus, while we can't put names and faces to the few Christians in the Maldives, You can, and we pray that You'd comfort each one with the truth that You are always with them, and that their family worldwide remembers them. Help them to withstand pressure, and orchestrate divine meetings that bring believers together and lead more people to You. May this year bring breakthrough in the translation of the full Bible into Dhivehi, and we pray that the forthcoming presidential term will mark a softening of hearts and be a step towards greater religious freedom. May the Maldives soon be a welcoming place for both tourists and Christians. Amen.