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Maldives' government tightens grip on religious affairs under new rules

Country/Region: Maldives, South and East Asia

New religious regulations in the Maldives include a penalty of up to five years in jail for anyone who preaches anything except a version of Islam approved by the country’s Islamic Ministry.

Under the religious unity regulations, which enforce the Religious Unity Act, it remains illegal to spread any religion other than Islam, and to carry, or display in public, books on religions other than Islam.

All preachers of Islam, both local and foreign, must be licensed by the Islamic Ministry and have received a degree in Islamic education from an approved university.

20110401-Maldives-4X3.jpg
Religious freedom is severely restricted in the Maldives (Source: Nevit Dilmen, Wikimedia Commons)

The media is banned from producing or broadcasting any programme “that humiliates Allah or his prophets of the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet or the Islamic faith”.

Preachers are instructed not to express anything: “against general agreement” among Islamic scholars; that may be interpreted as racial or gender discrimination; that may prevent people from pursuing education or health services; that demeans the character or creates hatred towards people of any other religion.

The new regulations are intended to curb the spread of Islamic extremism in the Maldives. They have been met with opposition from Islamic groups, who say they are too restrictive.

Penalties for violating the regulations are two-five years in jail, banishment or house arrest.  

Islam is the only recognised religion in the Maldives, which is overwhelmingly Muslim (99 per cent). The very small number of Christians, less than 0.2 per cent of the population, are ostracised, discriminated against and carefully watched. Non-Muslims are precluded from voting and holding public positions. The public’s attitude towards Christianity is very negative because of the Western media and the perceived immorality of Western tourists.

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  • Praise God for the release of John Short, an Australian missionary who was detained in North Korea for distributing Christian leaflets. John, who is 75 and based in Hong Kong, was reported to security officials in Pyongyang after he was spotted leaving a Christian leaflet at a Buddhist temple, an act that is illegal in North Korea. Further Korean-language Christian pamphlets were subsequently found in his hotel room. John, who was released on 3 March after two weeks in custody, was required to sign a confession probably scripted by the authorities. Other foreign missionaries arrested in North Korea have been given long prison sentences. Give thanks to God that John has escaped further punishment, and pray for him as he recovers from his traumatic ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 4 hours ago

  • Pray for Barnabas Fund partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

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