THE CHURCH IN COMOROS: TINY BUT BEGINNING TO GROW

1. History

Comoros consists of a cluster of tiny volcanic  islands halfway between the eastern African coast and Madagascar. All islands are densely populated and resource poor. The earliest inhabitants of the islands were likely people from the African Swahili and Bantu cultures from as early as 1000 BC. Shiragi Arabs from Persia first arrived in AD 933, bringing Sunni Islam with them. From the 8th to the 13th centuries they were followed by an influx of Austronesian sailors from Southeast Asia, who had earlier settled nearby Madagascar. Thus Comoros can lay claim to being the first site of the complete mixing of the African, Arabian and Asian people groups.

From the time of the Portugese the island of Anjouan quickly became a major supply port for Europeans crossing the Indian Ocean. The French finally acquired the islands through a cunning mixture of strategies, including that of divide and conquer. After World War II, the islands became a French overseas territory. On July 6, 1975 the Comorian parliament passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence. The representatives of the island of Mayotte abstained and in two subsequent referendums the population of Mayotte voted against independence from France. Mayotte thus remains under French administration and is 9 times richer than the other islands.

2. Today

The population of just under 800,000 is now a mixture of Arab, African and Malagasy blood lines. There have been over 20 coups and attempted coups since independence. Two smaller islands are also constantly agitating for their own independence. The average income is just 2% of the USA and literacy is low at around 60%.

Some 98% of the population is Muslim and religion dominates life on the islands. Radical Islamic scholars are pushing for stricter Sharia Law. Under the surface of Islam sits a deep attachment to witchcraft, spirit possession and the occult. Many young people have no hope for a better future so resort to drugs, loose living or emigration.

3. Evangelical Highlights

There aren’t many! Because the only colonial influence was French, before 1973 Comoros had virtually zero evangelical Christians. Islam is the state religion and Christian evangelism is strictly forbidden. Those who come to Christ can expect severe reprisals from their family. Persecution is on the rise in equal proportion to Islamic fundamentalism. Radical elements from the Middle East eagerly correct any signs of the weakening of anti-Christian sentiment. Christian converts are still expected to send their children to Islamic madrasas where pupils are taught Islamic principles and learn to read the Qur’an. The vast majority of the 6,500 people who are Christian are Catholic.

In the midst of all this spiritual darkness the number of believers actually continues to grow. However, most new believers are from the minority Reunionese people group, who make up the majority of the 4,500 Catholics in Comoros. Evangelicals have multiplied four fold since 1990 to around 1,300. Every single convert faces social challenges. Muslim Background Believers therefore operate in underground fellowships. New Muslim Background believers have withstood a lot of pressure, and found some acceptance in parts of society. For instance, on the island of Grand Comore these believers have to worship in secret because police, mosque leadership and extremists persecute them. However, their relatives in many cases have accepted their new faith. On the outer island of Anjouan, these believers and their places of worship are often known, but nobody has bothered them.

4. Prayer Points

Pray for those courageous believers who are not giving in to severe persecution.

Pray for networks of Muslim background believers on Anjouan to multiply

Pray for networks of extended believing families to multiply

Pray for the spiritual bankruptcy of political Islam to be exposed

Pray for Holy Spirit signs and wonders to turn Saul’s into Pauls

Pray for healings and deliverances from witchcraft to shake confidence in Islam and shamanism

Pray for the breaking down of deeply entrenched spiritual and cultural strongholds

Pray that the young will find Jesus through their smartphones!

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