Crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, bright blue skies.
Everything about the Maldives seems absolutely picturesque, yet these beautiful islands make up the country which ranks 6th on The Open Doors World Watch List of countries where followers of Jesus Christ face the greatest persecution.
Since this is such a small country, people often know little about it. If a person is familiar with this country, the term “vacation destination” is often the first thing that comes to mind, not persecution.
However, this country boasts of having a “100%” Muslim population and is the only country in the world which requires all citizens to be Muslim. Conversion to another faith is prohibited by law and converts face extreme pressure from family and society – often having to leave the country. The authorities exert extensive control on the people to correct any deviation from Islam. There are no church gatherings or buildings. Religion is moving towards Deobandi Islam – the religion of the Taliban, whose mission is to cleanse Islam of all other influences. There are very few indigenous believers.
A Christian worker shared, on condition of anonymity, the reality of following Christ in a “100%” Muslim population:
“There are very few believers in the Maldives, and their world is very small” she shared. “It is often difficult for them to reach out to fellow believers outside of their small community for many reasons. First off, they are often wary of sharing their stories with outsiders because they are afraid of the information they share being traced back to them (since it is such a small community). Also, some have been reported to the authorities or betrayed in the past by people who were supposedly fellow believers. This is further aggravated by a culture of mistrust in the country. The very few believers are fearful of being discovered and having connections to foreigners who are Christians.”
“To be a Maldivian is to be a Muslim,” she continues. “A ‘Maldivian Christian’ doesn’t compute in a country that claims to be 100% Muslim in terms of population. To be a Christian in Maldives is to be a secret believer, and they are unable to practice their faith, especially worship and fellowship, because someone could be watching them all the time.”
Possession of a Bible and other Christian materials will place a Maldivian in jail. This, along with the prohibition of speaking with foreigners and the fear of their faith being discovered makes a follower of Christ in Maldives extremely hesitant to risk meeting with others or sharing their stories. It is an enormous task for anyone to reach out to Maldivians. There are many roadblocks and it is almost impossible. But God is definitely at work in the islands beyond what praying eyes can see.
“It will take a miracle to see more freedom for Maldivian Christians in the future,” she says. “The rising Islamic fundamentalism and the present government’s efforts to preserve Islam as the national and cultural heritage of the country don’t seem to leave even a tiny space for hope. Maldivian believers are greatly encouraged just knowing that there are others who remember them in prayer. Living out their faith in Maldives is fraught with the challenges of security and suspicion, and yet they are Christ’s salt and light inside the country.”
Despite the severe limitations, Christ is still doing a great work in this country. However, the prayers of Christians around the world are very much needed for the ministry to continue.
“Pray that God will make it possible for His Word to be available for the Maldivian believers,” the Christian worker shares. “Pray for them to continue in their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, in spite of severe restrictions and oppression.”