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Persecution in Mauritania

Pray for the persecuted!

Islam has been entrenched in the West African nation of Mauritania for 1000 years with little challenge. There is no church under local leadership, while the handful of indigenous believers who do exist (between 400 to 1,000) are extremely ignorant about the basic tenets of Christianity.

The persecution of Christians in Mauritania worsened after General Aziz toppled the country's elected president in 2008. Mauritanian pro-democratic parties urged the African Union to pressure the ruling junta to obey its directive to reinstate the toppled president. After many discussions and the dismissal of the former president, General Aziz was elected as the new president in July 2009.

This political turbulence has made matters even more challenging for the few Mauritanian Christians who do exist.

The Mauritanian Constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and recognizes Islam as the only religion of its citizens. As such, the printing and distribution of non-Islamic religious materials is strictly prohibited, as is evangelizing Muslims. Article 11 of the Press Act is used to prevent proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims, and to restrict the printing, distribution and importation of non-Islamic religious materials.

The Government takes great pains to enforce this and to prevent Mauritanian citizens from hearing the gospel. Expatriates suspected of trying to proselytize Mauritanians are subject to harassment, interrogation, brief imprisonment and even expulsion.

In June 2009, a Christian aid worker was murdered. The murder was claimed by al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM), a terrorist group of Algerian origin, recently linking up with al-Qaida and widening the scope of its activities to the whole of North Africa.

In August 2009, 150 Sub-Saharan Christians were arrested for having their own church meeting. Local police were responsible for the arrests and torture.

Many other examples of persecution abound.

Conversion to another religion is punishable by death, although no such sentences have been carried out by the state recently. However, new believers do face rejection by their family and tribe. It is hard for Westerners to understand the full impact of a Christian being rejected by his tribe. For a Mauritanian, their tribe is even more important than their country and usually defines the only life and community they know.

Christians also face enormous hardship because of the economic conditions. One of the world’s poorest countries, one third of all Mauritanian children are malnourished. When there is enough food, it is often too expensive for the poor to afford. While the government’s obedience to World Bank economic liberalization has brought financial growth, it has also plunged many of the working poor into even greater poverty.

One effect of the extreme poverty is that there is great illiteracy. More than 50% of the adult population is illiterate. This prevents the few Mauritanian Christians who do exist from being able to read the Bible. No full translation of the scriptures is even available in Hassaniya Arabic, the language of Mauritania.

Source: Open Doors USA

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