There are estimated to be a very small number of Christians in the Maldives. The vast majority of people living there are Muslim.
The government of the Maldives likes to boast that the country is 100% Sunni Muslim, so any deviation is taken seriously. No religious minorities are recognised by the state, and every citizen is considered Muslim – so Christian converts have to follow Jesus in the greatest secrecy. If discovered, they are very likely to be reported to Muslim leaders or the authorities, and can be stripped of their citizenship or even given the death penalty.
Everybody must wear Islamic dress and observe the Ramadan fast, or face being arrested by authorities and harassed by their community. Girls or women suspected of being Christians can face threats, domestic violence or being pressured into a Muslim marriage. Sexual abuse of women and children is on the rise in the Maldives, with domestic violence generally 'acceptable' in society's eyes, especially as a punishment. The threat of abuse is an effective tool of persecution against believers.
Even foreign Christians working in the islands' tourist sector are closely watched by the authorities – they can only meet up for worship or weddings in a private place (such as their country's embassy) and must not express or discuss their faith with local citizens. If they do, they may be fined, deported or even imprisoned for a number of years.
There are elements of violent Islamic extremism in the Maldives, including fighters returning from places like Syria, who pose a danger to suspected Christian believers, and the country is struggling to cope with the size of this challenge.
The Maldives is made up of very close-knit communities, making it very difficult to talk to or meet up with anybody secretly. Christian faith must be kept so private that two members of the same family could be believers without the other ever knowing. Mutual encouragement and fellowship are a huge challenge, and many Christians – and members of other religious minorities – will attempt to leave and start a new life abroad. It is very difficult for the church to grow, develop and train leaders.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in the Maldives. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in the Maldives.
Lord God, we pray that the leaders of the Maldives will soon allow freedom of religion and recognise that faith cannot be forced. We pray that You will make ways for secret believers to safely communicate with one another and access Bible materials to deepen their knowledge and faith in You. Do miracles in whole families so that husbands, wives and children can joyfully follow You together. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.