What does persecution look like in Maldives?
The Maldives is an island paradise popular for welcoming tourists from around the world – but the welcome sadly doesn’t extend to Maldivians who choose to follow Jesus.
This nation of 1,000-plus islands declares itself to be 100% Muslim, so being a citizen of the Maldives means being a Muslim. Within the country’s close-knit communities, any deviation from Islamic values is easily spotted and reported to the authorities or Muslim leaders, so those who leave Islam must keep their faith secret. It's so dangerous that husbands, wives and children may not even know of each other's faith. If discovered, believers may be stripped of their citizenship, isolated from society and lose their state benefits for violating Sharia (Islamic law).
While foreign Christians, who mostly work in the tourist sector, have slightly more freedom than converts, their gatherings are strictly monitored and controlled by the authorities. That said, many prefer not to organize meetings, for fear of the repercussions. Foreign Christians are strictly forbidden from sharing their faith with Maldivians. Scrutiny of expats has increased following a decree issued by the Islamic Ministry in 2022, which advised travel agents and those handling such workers to make sure they know to respect and abide by the Islamic values and laws of the Maldives.
Radical Islam is a concern for the authorities. So far, Christians have not been a particular target for extremists, but this is more due to them keeping a low profile than for them not being considered a target.
The persecution of Christians in the Maldives occurs outside of the islands reserved for international tourists.
What has changed this year?
In September 2023, the Maldives held a presidential election and Malé mayor Mohamed Muizzu became president. In recent years, presidential candidates have called for moderation when it comes to religious matters; however, Muizzu actively looked for support from conservative Islamic groups, which he will now need to accommodate. Given how embedded Islam is in the fabric of Maldivian society, it's unlikely that the forthcoming presidential term will change much for Christians.
Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in the Maldives.
- Please pray that secret believers will be able to access the Bible in their own language this year
- Pray that our family in the Maldives will draw huge encouragement from knowing that they're part of a global family who stand with them in prayer
- Ask that the forthcoming presidential term will mark a softening towards religious minorities, including Christians.
Lord Jesus, while we can't put names and faces to the few Christians in the Maldives, You can, and we ask that You comfort each one with the truth that You are always with them, and that their family worldwide remembers them. Help them to withstand pressure, and orchestrate divine meetings that bring believers together and lead more people to You. May this year bring breakthrough in the translation of the full Bible into Dhivehi, and we pray that the forthcoming presidential term will mark a softening of hearts and be a step towards greater religious freedom. May the Maldives soon be a welcoming place for both tourists and Christians. Amen.