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Christians arrested for holding baptism ceremony in Mauritania

A released video of baptism fuelled the revenge of an angry Muslim gang, which resulted in 15 Christians and families of their leaders being detained in the Northern-African country.

The conflict started when authorities arrested three of the 15 Christians at the end of November in Selibaby. This derived from angry Muslim protests demanding Christians to be killed when a video of a baptism ceremony had been posted on social media.

According to the U.S.  State Department’s most recent International Religious Freedom Report, the charges against the Christians were unclear. Even though there is no law against evangelism in Mauritania, authorities forbid non-Muslims from “proselytizing” and ban any public expression of faith except Islam. Only foreigners are permitted to hold non-Muslim religious services and it is considered a criminal offence for citizens to attend these. Christians can be accused of apostasy in a religious court, or charged with terrorism or cyber-crime offences. They are often detained and prosecuted for “undermining national security by insulting Islam and threatening Mauritania’s sacred principles”. If found guilty, the repercussions are severe, it may be the death sentence. Christian converts are publicly shamed, often abused and ostracised. 

Violent Islamic extremist groups, including a branch of al-Qaeda, are active in the eastern border regions of the country, posing a danger to any Christian.

A local Christian leader confirmed that following long legal battle the Christians were released just before Christmas: “They have been asked to go home and believe what they want, but in private and discreetly. It seems that our brothers have more to fear from the Islamists than from their government. Thank God for this happy ending.”


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