PICTURE EDITION 33: THE CHURCH IN MAYOTTE: VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTANT

1. History

Mayotte consists of two small islands located half way between Madagascar and Africa, and is part of the Comoros chain of volcanic mountain tops jutting out from the Mozambique Channel. The area was known to Arab and Iranian traders who brought their religion to the islands, and its name is a French corruption of the Arabic Jazīrat al-Mawt meaning islands of death. Mayotte’s people are 90% indigenous to the island or the Comoros islands and their ancestors were likely people from the African Swahili and Bantu cultures who came over 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, like Comoros next door, Mayotte can lay claim to being the first site of the complete mixing of the African, Arabian and Asian people groups.

In 1843 France took control of all the islands of all the region and 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 decisively against independence from France. Mayotte thus remains under French administration and is 9 times richer than the other Comoros islands due to French financial subsidies.

2. Today

Although far richer than its neighbours in Comoros, Mayotte is by far the poorest protectorate in the world belonging to France. It is home to a French military base and widespread welfare subsidies have dramatically reduced any incentive to be self-sufficient. Thus agriculture is collapsing and the population lives off expensive imported foods. All the while the population grows through natural means and large scale illegal immigration from Comoros. Many times the United Nations has condemned France’s continued occupation of the islands, and has repeatedly recognised Comoros’ legal claim to sovereignity, but to no avail. This is at odds with 99% of the population who wish to remain part of France.

Two hundred and eighty thousand Mayotteans live on just 373 square km of land. Literacy is somewhere between 30 and 50%. Because money is relatively easy and life relaxed, a spirit of complacency rests on most of the population. If nothing changes in Mayotte there will be an eventual disaster and major policy shift from France as lazy wealth continues to attract a never-ending stream of illegal immigrants from Comoros to these two tiny islands.

3. True Christianity

Around 97% of the population is Sunni Muslim, but folk Islam and witchcraft are widespread. Many people are involved in cults practicing spirit possession. Approximately 26% of the adult population, mostly men, report regularly entering trance states in which they believe they are possessed by certain demonic spirits. Islands of death is definitely an apt description of the spiritual state of Mayotte.

There are only around 250 known evangelicals on the islands as part of a wider community of 3,200 nominal Christians, mainly Catholic. There are just three evangelical congregations on the islands, and they do not yet have a fired-up vision for reaching their fellow citizens. Because Mayotte is French, evangelism is legal and never challenged, but is not common due to widespread social pressure. Evangelical Christianity needs to find a way to get inside the indigenous culture. The most response to the Gospel comes from the illegal immigrants from Comoros where they have never heard anything to do with Christianity.

4. Prayer Points

As for the Maldives and nearby Comoros, Satan thinks he owns these islands. But prayer will change the future!

Pray for demonic powers to be decisively broken

Pray for local believers to get a vision for souls

Pray for culturally sensitive evangelism

Pray for ex-Muslim evangelists to come as church planters

Pray for signs, wonders and miracles to shake up complacent hearts

Pray for souls!

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