PICTURE EDITION 30: THE CHURCH IN THE MALDIVES: IN SERIOUS NEED OF OUR PRAYERS!

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1. History

The Maldives lie about 1,000 kilometres south west of the tip of India and consist of 1,200 small coral islands. The islands were first inhabited by the Dravidian peoples of the South Indian state of Kerala and the Maldives culture still contains many links to these people. The earliest written records mentioning the Maldives islands date to 500 BC. For the next 1,400 years the islands were under Buddhist influence and it is this culture that survives today despite the dominance of Islam. The Maldivian language, the first Maldivian scripts, the architecture, the ruling institutions, the customs and manners of the Maldivians originated during the Buddhist period of its history.

Through the increasing cultural exposure to Muslim sea traders, the king of the Maldives converted to Islam in 1153, ushering in its current religion. His dynasty lasted until 1932. In 1558 the Maldives became a branch of the Portugese trading post of Goa in India. Their attempts to convert the locals to the Catholic religion resulted in their departure 15 years later. The Dutch came next, followed by the British in 1796, neither of these two colonists made the same mistake as the Portugese in trying to convert the locals.

Agitation for self-rule gradually gained momentum in the 20th Century resulting independence in 1965. With 360,000 citizens and 80,000 foreign workers, the Maldives is one of the most densely populated island chains in the world. Its capital, Male, is a most unusual sight indeed.

2. Today

At an average elevation of only 1.5 metres above sea level, the Maldives is in great danger from the ocean. The Tsunami of 2004 inundated nearly all its islands, devastating its agricultural base and fragile ecosystem. The global downturn in 2009 then shattered its lucrative tourism industry. It is a poor country at the mercy of nature and global economics.

Since independence the country politics drifted quickly back toward the autocratic rule of the old Sultanate. From 1978 to 2008 it was under the iron fist of a local dictator. Pressure to open up its political sphere resulted in free elections in 2008. However, within five years political autocracy was reasserting its ugly head and the government has been unstable ever since. Freedom is viewed as a threat and un-Islamic to many of the countries elite.

Behind its beautiful tourist image of an island paradise is a dark reality. Sunni Islam is the only recognised religion and is the enforced centre of all cultural expression. No other religion or ideology is allowed to exist. Freedom of expression is thus severely restricted, divorce rates are among the highest in the world, crime is rampant, as is the abuse of children and endemic drug use among teenagers.

he people of the Maldives are crying out for a better life but are being deliberately held back from the one Truth that can set them free. Part of the reason for this is that the Maldives version of Sunni Islam is deeply rooted in occult practices called Fanditha that pre-date Islam’s arrival. Its Voodoo and black magic are pervasive all the way to the highest political circles. This is an island controlled by Satan in a way not often seen in the modern world.

3. Evangelical Highlights

The people of the Maldives are therefore some of the least evangelised on earth. Freedom of religion is highly unpopular and violent opposition to any conversions is to be expected. To make matters worse, in recent years Islam has shifted sharply toward arrogant and restrictive Saudi Wahhabism. No missions work or Christian missions are allowed and the government denies the existence of any Christians, while simultaneously arresting any they find! Because the Maldives view of Christianity is shaped by the immorality of tourists and western media, Christians are seen as both enemies of Islam and the state. In fact the term Christian is used locally as a swear word to abuse each other!

Anyone who becomes a true follower of Jesus can expect mockery, ostracism, arrest and torture. Consequently there are less than 500 believers in the whole country. Numbers are rising, but from such a small base that a major spiritual breakthrough is desperately needed. There is no Bible in the native language and the internet is the only means of witnessing locally, once past the governments internet firewall!

4. Prayer Points

Pray that the demonic forces that control this nation will be smashed. This is by far the most important need right now

Pray against the demonic strongholds of pride, fear and lust

Pray for the few believers to have the courage to live out their convictions

Pray for divine favour and protection for all believers

Pray for the courage to present a godly lifestyle in the face of social pressure

Pray for disaffected youth to come across the Gospel online,

Pray for locals who travel to be exposed to the true gospel

Pray for the 80,000 foreign workers from South India to be able to share the Truth freely

Pray that the amazing and fast-growing house church movements in India will get a vision to reach into the Maldives

Pray that the yearning for freedom will flow over to religion as well as politics

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