President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
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.
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.
Those who make the bold decision to leave Islam and follow Jesus are especially prone to persecution. It’s a decision that brings shame to their families. Men will lose their status in society and may be forced to leave their home. Women and girls could remain under the influence of Islam if forced into marriage with a Muslim man. Conversely, unmarried women will face a battle for survival, since they’re totally financially dependent on either their father or husband.
Open Doors supports the church in North Africa through distributing Christian literature, providing training, and organizing socio-economic development projects and advocacy support.