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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #20

MAURITANIA

Country rank

20

Persecution score

71.34

Last year’s rank

24

Region

Middle East  North Africa

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Very strong), Clan oppression (Strong), Ethno-religious hostility (Strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Medium), Organized corruption and crime (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

4,784,000

Christians

10,800 (0.2%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential republic

Leader

President Mohamed Cheikh El Ghazouani

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in North Africa through:
• Training
• Literature distribution
• Socio-economic development

ABOUT MAURITANIA

What does persecution look like in Mauritania?

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.  

How women experience persecution

The most vulnerable Christian women are those who have converted from Islam. It is a decision that puts them at odds with the authority of their father and husband, and brings shame on the family. It can also leave Christian women in a financially perilous situation.

Arranged marriages are common in Mauritania, and unmarried converts, often still teenagers, can be forced into marrying Muslim men to keep them under the influence of Islam. If their faith is discovered, Christian women (or girls) can be subject to harsh treatment, such as excruciating servitude and isolation.

The presence of modern-day slavery (despite laws against it) makes ruthless detention and exploitation of female converts more likely – and  very hidden.  

How men experience persecution

Deciding to follow Jesus can be highly costly for a man brought up as a Muslim in Mauritania. They will likely be ostracized by their family, losing their status in society, and could be expelled from their home. To avoid performing certain Muslim rites, some Christian men flee their hometown or even the country. Since leaving Islam is illegal, charges of apostasy can be brought in a religious court.
Meanwhile, ethnic Africans are put under pressure to leave Mauritania by preventing them from finding work or forcing migrant workers to pay high fees. Many sub-Saharan African Christians do leave for this reason, or live very difficult lives.   

What has changed this year?

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. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

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. 

How can I help Christians in Mauritania?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Mauritania?

Open Doors supports the church in North Africa through distributing Christian literature, providing training, and organizing socio-economic development projects and advocacy support. 

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

Pray

– Pray that the law in Mauritania will change so that it is no longer illegal to leave Islam.
– Ask for strength and protection for all converts, and that families will increasingly honor and respect the decision of any member to follow Jesus.
– Pray that opportunities will open up for believers to share the gospel with others safely. 

A PRAYER FOR MAURITANIA

Dear God, thank You for the small but faithful church in Mauritania. Give those who’ve made the bold decision to follow You the strength to stand firm and serve You. May they shine brightly, leading others to You, too. Protect Christian women from forced or unhealthy marriages, and place them in families and communities where they will not just survive, but thrive. Amen.