Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Persecution in a tropical paradise

It's the time of year when many people choose to break free from the winter "blahs" by vacationing in a warmer climate. If you type "Maldives" into Google, you'll be flooded with idyllic pictures of a tempting tropical paradise—stretches of sandy beaches, pristine blue water and cloudless sky. It's easy to see why the country has become a popular tourist destination—one that perhaps some Canadians are enjoying at this very moment.

Up until a few years ago, I simply thought of Maldives as one of many vacation places, grouping it with places such as Jamaica and Barbados. But, if you Google "Maldives" and "religious freedom," you'll see that there's more going on here than rest and relaxation; the country is far from a carefree paradisaical environment for its Christians.

The reality of the trials facing Maldivian Christians became especially clear to me while we were updating our online country report on the nation. Maldives' constitution, for example, is based on the assumption that any Maldivian citizen is automatically a Muslim. What if Canadian law operated according to such an assumption, with Canadian identity inextricable from religious identity? How frustrated, constrained, angry and fearful would I feel? To live in a country where by law my Christianity faith was actually considered non-existent seems impossible to imagine! Yet this is the very struggle of Maldivian Christians. The government is essentially trying to "erase" their faith in Christ by denying its very existence—and thus denying believers their fundamental human rights. Although we don't receive frequent incident reports from this country, it's clear from the information that we do have that the persecution is severe.

It's not pleasant to have my idyllic image of Maldives shattered by the hard truths of religious repression. I can no longer look at the pictures of the gorgeous tropical landscape the same way now that I know the suffering going on behind the scenes. However, ultimately I am grateful to know of the reality facing Christians in this country. Continue to pray that our Maldivian brothers and sisters in Christ will persevere in faith, testifying to the beauty that's far beyond beaches and sun: that of Christ's love and faithfulness.


Anonymous said...

Adele,i am glad that you posted the story of the Maldives.Ir is not that i did not know,praying for my persecuted brothers and sisters has in cluded the Maldives.Another country is Cuba where so many enjoy a time of rest,food and relaxation and the population(Christians even more)suffer hardship .Suzanna

Adele Konyndyk said...

Glad you found it helpful, Suzanna. And yes, there certainly are other countries where the tourist climate of rest/relaxation can mask the true hardship and difficulties going on. So continued prayer is important indeed.