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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #15

MALDIVES

 

Country rank

15

Persecution score

77.48

Last year’s rank

14

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Very strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

459,000

Christians

A small number (OD estimate%)  According to OD-estimate

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih

 Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Maldives through:

• Prayer  support

ABOUT MALDIVES

What does persecution look like in Maldives?

The Maldives are viewed by many as a luxury holiday destination, but behind the beauty of this island paradise lies a strict Islamic regime. This chain of nearly 1,200 islands has one of the highest population densities worldwide, especially on its main island, Malé. The close-knit, homogeneous communities keep a close watch on their members for any sign of deviation – which naturally includes religious choice. All politicians relentlessly claim that they are keeping the Maldives 100 percent Muslim, leaving effectively no space for any alternative.

 Conversion to Christianity can easily result in being reported to Muslim leaders or authorities. Expatriate Christians, most of them working in the tourist sector and coming from India and Sri Lanka, are also closely watched, making Christian fellowship very difficult. 

How women experience persecution

Given the extremely strict interpretation of Islam in the Maldives, Christian men and women must be secret believers. If a woman or girl is discovered to be a Christian, every effort will be made to bring them back to Islam through forced marriage, threats or other forms of violence. 

 Furthermore, vigilante mobs have been known to abduct Maldivian citizens suspected of being irreligious or non-Muslim, blindfold them, take them to remote places and hold vigilante trials.

 Despite the closely-knit social control on the islands, abuse, rape and sexual harassment are common in a culture that generally excuses gender-based violence within the home. A study by the Asian Development Bank Department of Gender, Family Development and Social Security published in 2014 found (p.13) that “one in three women aged 15-49 has experienced domestic violence, and that 70% of women believe that there are circumstances where men are justified in beating their wives.” 

Secret Christian women believers are affected by this, as well. Furthermore, persecution indirectly affects families as it does not allow them to grow in faith together and build “immunity” against societal illnesses.

Additionally, given the country’s repressive environment, Christian women and girls have no choice but to abide by traditional dress codes. 

How men experience persecution

 Being a Christian in the Maldives is so dangerous for both men and women that husbands, wives and children may not even know of each other’s faith. This means that Christians also lack an example of what a good Christian marriage is like, as they cannot be a part of any Christian community. If a man is found to be a secret Christian believer, he is likely to face bodily harm, harassment, threats and government imprisonment. 

What has changed this year?

The Maldives’ place on the World Watch List remains virtually unchanged, demonstrating that very little has altered in the past year. The new government, inaugurated in November 2018, clearly shows no signs of hesitation in its determination to keep the islands entirely free from religious influence that’s not Islamic.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Persecution mainly takes place away from the eyes of international tourists the country`s economy depends on. A church life in the true meaning of the word is virtually impossible. Converts go to great lengths not to be discovered by their families and communities. They would not only face strong opposition and pressure to return to Islam, but could even lose their citizenship. 

How can I help Christians in Maldives?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Maldives?

Open Doors raises prayer support for believers in the Maldives. 

Pray

– Pray for the Lord to provide opportunities for believers to gather safely
– Pray that God will use the Bible to powerfully strengthen, encourage and nurture the lives of believers
– Pray that attitudes among government officials, especially President Solih, will soften towards Christians and other religious minorities. 
– Pray for the Christians among expatriate migrant workers, that they can be good witnesses of the hope they have in Christ.

A PRAYER FOR THE MALDIVES

Lord Jesus, we pray for our brothers and sisters in the Maldives who are courageously following You in secret, despite the dangers they face. Thank You that You know each one by name and love them dearly. Protect, help and encourage them and provide ways for Christians to meet safely. Soften the heart of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih towards Christians. Amen.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Maldives, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.