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Where Seventh-day Adventists Are Not Yet: North Africa

By Edited Sep 17, 2016 0 0

The Seventh-day Adventist Church as made converts in nearly all countries in Africa. In fact, there are now three world divisions that incorporate the millions of African Adventist members and the church continues to grow fast in many countries.  There are, however three African countries and one disputed area where the Adventist Church has not yet had success.   These countries are all in North Africa and dominated by Islam.  War is a significant obstacle in several of these countries as well.

Mauritania:  Located in North West Africa, this large country is a former French possession.

Mauritania’s population is 3,281,634 (July 2011 estimated) and is composed of several ethnic groups:

  •  the Moors (White in Arabic) or Beidane 30%,
  • the Haratins who are black-skinned descendant of freed slaves still attached to their former masters’ culture
  • the Soninke and the Hal-pulaar or Peuls which includes settled farmers called Toucouleur and nomadic stock-breeders. The black population forms 30% of the population.
  • Mixed Moor/Black 40%

While officially outlawed in 1980, slavery is still an issue in Mauritania, Slave owners continue to hold illiterate blacks apart from freed blacks who could inform them of their rights and use perverted interpretations of Islam to keep slaves loyal to  Even slaves that could go free are constrained by pressures that slave owners place to prevent them from getting jobs.

Poverty is another serious issue.  25% of the country lives on less than $1.50 a day and the country has one of the lowest GDP in the region. Only about 50% of the population can read and write.

Camel market in Nouakchott

Mauritania is nearly 100%Muslim, most of whom are Sunnis. 4,500 Catholics are served by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott, founded in 1965. 

There are no more than 200 Protestants (both foreigners and locals combined) in Mauritania. In spite of strict law against evangelization, the Mauritanian Christian community is growing and there are now 400 - 1,000 ethnic Mauritanian Christians.  Churches have been closed and no new faiths may register in the country. Conversion from Islam can be punished with death.

Printing or distributing Christian material is illegal. Bibles are very hard to find. In a country with high levels of illiteracy radio represents an opportunity to go where missionaries can not go.

Morocco & Western Sahara:  The Kingdom of Morocco effectively controls all the useful areas of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara.  While ownership is disputed, we will treat these countries as one for purposes of this discussion. 

Islam is the established state religion of Morocco and Sunni Muslim's make up almost the entire population of 32.2 million.  About 1 percent of the population is Christian, and less than 0.2 percent are reported as Jewish.  

The fully green area shows the internationally recognized territory of Morocco. The striped area is the disputed territory of Western Sahara; Morocco administers most of this territory as its de facto Southern Provinces.
Non-Muslim foreign communities can openly practise their faith but not without risk. As in most Muslim countries, evangelism is prohibited and conversion to Christianity discouraged. The King, Mohammed VI its thought by observers to want to modernise the country but finds himself in a delicate position because of increased tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.  The King is also the supreme Muslim authority in the country. 

A government crackdown on religious groups in 2010 lead to at least 150 foreign Christians being expelled from the country.  Some Christians are imprisoned, beaten and harassed because of their faith.

Open Doors ranks Morocco at #31 on its World Watch List.

Here are the only other places where Seventh-day Adventists can not be found yet:

Countries without Adventists in Europe

Countries without Adventists in Asia

Countries without Adventists in the Middle East

Countries without Adventists:  Islands

Somalia: a failed nation-state on the Northeast corner of Africa.  Racked by civil war, famine and poverty, Somalia is a dangerous place for Christians and anyone else.

The CIA estimates that Somalia is comprised of a population of 9,925,640 (July 2011 est.) making Somalia the 86th largest population in the world.  However, "this estimate was derived from an official census taken in 1975 by the Somali Government; population counting in Somalia is complicated by the large number of nomads and by refugee movements in response to famine and clan warfare".  So who really knows how many people there are in the country. The CIA estimates that the population is broken down into Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including 30,000 Arabs).

These people speak Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, and English as the main languages.

With an urban population of 37% of total population (2010) Somalia is not very urbanized by global standards but it is rapidly urbanizing with the rate of urbanization estimated at 4.1% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)  Literacy is very low at under 50% for men and under about 26% for women. Blended at around 37.8% (remembering the difficulty of collecting accurate info in a war zone.

Nearly 100% of the population is Sunni Muslim and less than 1% are Christians. Loyalty to Islam reinforces distinctions between Somalis and Christians in Ethiopia and indigenous African religions. 

A 2003 report by the US State Department found that "Local tradition and past law make proselytizing a crime for any religion except Islam.  Proselytizing for any religion except Islam is prohibited by law in Puntland and Somaliland and effectively blocked by informal social consensus elsewhere in the country. Christian-based international relief organizations generally operate without interference, provided that they refrain from proselytizing."  The lack of a central government or active constitution mean that there are few legal impediments to freedom of religion, but practically there is no freedom of religion.  

Open Doors ranks Somalia as the 5th worst country for religious freedom in 2011 after North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. 

According to Open Doors:  "It remained very dangerous to be a Christian (in Somalia) in 2010. At least eight Christians were killed (beheaded and otherwise murdered) and a quarter of all Christians fled the country. The few Christians are heavily persecuted and must practise their faith in secret. The country has been without effective central government since 1991. Islamist insurgents Al-Shabaab control most of the south, and are effectively trying to wipe out Christianity from the country.  There are, however, indications that they are losing popularity."

While there are no reported Seventh-day Adventist Churches or members, there is an active ADRA program to feed and otherwise assist the local population in various parts of Somalia. 



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