|Persecution Type:||Islamic oppression|
|Persecution Level:||Very High|
|Leader:||President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani|
For Christians in Mauritania, public worship carries a constant threat. Even churches that are largely tolerated have to be careful so they aren’t accused of proselytizing Muslims, and for Christians who converted from Islam, public worship is often impossible. In Mauritania’s tribal culture, leaving Islam is not only religious betrayal, but also betrayal of the tribe and family. Believers from Muslim backgrounds will often keep their faith secret. Because the extended family is often necessary for survival, it is a huge risk for a Mauritanian to become a Christian. If their faith is discovered, they may lose not only their status in their community but also their citizenship.
Conversion from Islam is also illegal. Criticism of Islam in this northwestern African nation can carry the death penalty, though this law has been largely symbolic so far. For these reasons, public and collective acts of worship are particularly difficult. Christian migrants from sub-Saharan Africa or aid workers who make any expression of faith risk being prosecuted for attempted proselytization. Baptisms must often be carried out in secret. Mauritania may be an increasingly dangerous place for Christians, as there is fear radical Islam may be on the rise.
Mauritania rose one point and one rank on the 2020 World Watch List compared to 2019. The total score increased slightly due to an increase in the scores for pressure, showing how hostile against Christianity Mauritanian society has become. Mauritania’s low score for violence may well be due to a lack of reporting that makes its way outside the closed country.
Christian persecution is threefold in Mauritania. Collective acts of worship are particularly difficult for Christians due to the restrictive environment that makes it impossible for believers (especially converts from Islam) to openly meet and hold worship services. Any expression of faith by non-Mauritanian Christians (such as migrants from sub-Saharan Africa or aid workers) also carries the risk of being perceived as attempted proselytization of Muslims and leads to prosecution. Family and societal pressure is especially intense for Christians with a Muslim background. And Christians also face the risk of attacks from militant groups such as al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (Northwest Africa).
Baptisms can only be carried out in secret and many converts from Islam are reluctant to be baptized, fearing discovery and charges of apostasy being brought against them.
Converts that are discovered by their families often feel pressured into leaving the country.
The Catholic Church (being the dominant Christian denomination) is allowed to renovate the interior of churches. However, the renovation of the exterior of Catholic churches and the construction of churches belonging to other denominations are prohibited.
All churches, including the Catholic Church, must operate carefully to avoid accusations of proselytization.
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