Christians are a tiny minority in Mauritania. In a population of around 4.8 million, just 10,800 are Christians. The majority are Muslim.
The restrictive environment in Mauritania makes it impossible for Christians to gather openly. This is especially true for converts from Islam, who face enormous pressure from their families and communities.
In Mauritania's tribal culture, leaving Islam is not only seen as religious betrayal, but also as a betrayal of the tribe and family. Understandably, in such a culture there is no room for celebrating baptisms, Christian marriages or funerals. Those who convert to Christianity could also face prosecution, since it is illegal to leave Islam.
Openly expressing the Christian faith is even risky for foreign nationals, as it could be regarded as an attempt to convert others to Christianity, which can lead to prosecution.
Deciding to follow Jesus can be highly costly for someone brought up as a Muslim in Mauritania. They are likely to be ostracised by their family, losing their status in society, and could be expelled from their home. To avoid performing certain Muslim rites, some Christian men flee their hometown or even the country. Since leaving Islam is illegal, charges of apostasy can be brought in a religious court.
Arranged marriages are common in Mauritania, and unmarried female converts, often still teenagers, can be forced into marrying Muslim men to keep them under the influence of Islam. If their faith is discovered, Christian women (or girls) can be subject to harsh treatment, such as excruciating servitude and isolation.
The presence of modern-day slavery (despite laws against it) makes ruthless detention and exploitation of female converts more likely – and very hidden.
Yes, it is, which is why Mauritania has risen four places in the World Watch List. Pressure on Christians in Mauritania has increased in the past year, caused by a tightening of the blasphemy and apostasy laws. Christians have experienced growing opposition in every area of life apart from family life, which remains at the same level. The sharpest rise is in violence, but this could be because more incidents are being reported.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Mauritania. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors supports the church in North Africa with Christian literature, training, socio-economic development projects and advocacy support.
Dear God, thank You for the small but faithful church in Mauritania. Give those who’ve made the bold decision to follow You the strength to stand firm and serve You. May they shine brightly, leading others to You, too. Protect Christian women from forced or unhealthy marriages, and place them in families and communities where they will not just survive, but thrive. Amen.
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