Mauritania's Christian Minority Faced with Mounting Repression

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) reports that tensions are rising for Christians in the predominantly Muslim nation of Mauritania

Tensions are rising in one of the world's poorest countries, reported the religious liberty commission of a global network representing some 150 million Christians in 115 countries.

Mauritania, where just over four thousand (0.16%) of its three million population are Christian, is a place where “the gospel of salvation is severely repressed,” according to the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC).

In an International Religious Freedom Report released last September, the U.S. State Department reported that Mauritania’s constitution establishes the predominantly Muslim nation as an Islamic republic with Islam as the religion of the State and of its citizens. Thus, importing, printing or selling Bibles is banned, as is any literature that undermines, contradicts or threatens Islam. All television and radio are also state controlled and all non-Muslim missionary activity is prohibited. Apostasy—leaving Islam—is banned and Sharia law has been enshrined as the law of the land since 1983.

“Faith in Jesus Christ can be extremely costly,” the RLC reported.

In August 2004, the military wing of the Islamist organization led by the notorious Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi posted a threat on the internet that specifically named Mauritania. According to the RLC, the threat read: “Our swords will be drawn in the face of anyone who co-operates with the Jews and the Christians. We will strike with an iron fist all the traitors from the Arab governments who co-operate with the Zionists secretly or openly.”

Operation World, the most widely used reference book for missions in the world, describes all Mauritanian peoples as “unreached, in that there are no indigenous churches under indigenous leadership.”

The RLC reports that extreme Islamic repression and total lack of religious liberty in Mauritania forces the tiny persecuted church deep underground.

“It silences witness and kills off her evangelists, leaders and new believers,” the Commission stated. “It stops God's free gift of salvation being offered there to multitudes of dying people.”

Only Mauritanians who are traders, herdsmen or businessmen have opportunities to hear the gospel in other countries.

Although a border dispute between Senegal and Mauritania led to race riots that forced thousands of black Mauritanians to flee south for refuge in Senegal—where there is freedom of religion—there are still only a handful of Mauritanian Christians worldwide.

On the recently released 2005 “World Watch” List, compiled by Open Doors International, Mauritanian was ranked 40 among the top 50 countries where Christians suffer most.