Not much to change in Mauritania’s coup

By August 11, 2008

Mauritania (MNN) — Leaders of a
military coup in Mauritania will hold a presidential election soon but will
appoint a government for now. The junta
deposed President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi over
corruption charges and alleged overtures to hard-line Islamists. 

The ousted
president came to power in the country's first democratic elections in 2007.  Ironically, that was almost two years since a
coup had removed the sitting president in 2005. The
country is no stranger to the art of coup d'etat. Since independence from France in 1960, the
West African country has seen 10 such events.

The Islamic republic of Mauritania
recognizes Islam as the official religion of its citizens. However, the government limits freedom of
religion partly by restricting the distribution of non-Islamic religious
materials.   

There is no
freedom for conversion to a religion other than Islam. As in
many other Islamic republics, the sentence for apostasy is death — although
this sentence has not been formally carried out in recent years. Painted
against this backdrop, it's clear that the country has been a
difficult region for Christians.  

Mauritania ranks 24 on the Open
Doors World Watch List, which ranks countries by the amount of persecution
Christians face as they practice their faith.

If President Abdallahi
was removed because he was making overtures to the hard-line Islamists, will
that create a better environment for believers and evangelism?

Unfortunately, Voice of the
Martyrs'
Todd Nettleton doesn't think so. "It's still 99.8 percent
Muslim, whether it's a general that sits in the top chair or whether it's the
president. There's not going to be a
dramatic difference in how the church is treated. We hope for more freedom; we hope for safety
for our Christian brothers and sisters. I think it's not going to make a
dramatic difference." 

Nettleton thinks radical Islamic
groups will still be in force regardless of what the government says. "One of our staff members has been in
contact with Mauritanian Christians.
They had received threatening letters from the Islamic committee who
were watching the ministry that was going on, and they were prepared to take action
to stop the action from going forth."

Pray that Christians in
Mauritania will find support and fellowship with other believers, despite their
small numbers. Pray, too, for strength of mind and spirit for those
risking much to bow their knees to Christ.

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