One of the most desirable vacation spots is also one of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians. That’s the word about the Maldives from Voice of the Martyrs Korea, whose two-year old daily Christian radio broadcast into the Maldives is one of the few successful outreaches into the country known for tourism but less known for its comprehensive ban on Christian activity.
“Neither mission work nor Christian literature has ever been allowed in the Maldives,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “Even foreign workers who are Christians are closely watched, which makes church life extremely difficult and practically nonexistent. Churches are outlawed, and openly carrying the Bible is illegal. The country is so tightly controlled by Islamic law that there is not even a Bible fully translated into the native language of most citizens of the Maldives.”
Representative Foley says a host of laws are designed to ensure that only Islamic principles are taught within the country.
“In order to deliver a sermon or a religious talk, one must obtain a license from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MIA),” says Representative Foley. “Only a Sunni Muslim with a degree in religious studies from a government recognized university may apply for a license.”
According to Representative Foley, separate laws prohibit the distribution of Christian literature. Violations may result in a prison sentence of 2 to 5 years.
But despite these grim restrictions, tourism in the Maldives returned to near pre-COVID levels in 2022, with 1.6 million people visiting the so-called “resort islands” that the Maldives specially designates for tourists.
“The world chooses to enjoy the extravagant luxeries of the Maldives while ignoring the human rights and religious liberty abuses happening there,” says Representative Foley. She says that even governments do the same, noting that the United States and Australia entered into diplomatic relationship with the Maldives in 2022. “Sadly, many Christians also forget their brothers and sisters in the Maldives who have suffered under the hand of the government and Islamic extremists,” says Representative Foley.
According to Representative Foley life for the average Maldivian is markedly different than life as a tourist at a resort.
“An obvious example of this is that tourists are often greeted with a bottle of wine, where citizens are prohibited from drinking alcohol and threatened with fines and flogging for doing so,” says Representative Foley. She says Christians considering tourism to the Maldives should take time to research more than which hotel to stay at.
“Here is the real state of the Maldives,” says Representative Foley. “According to reports, the Maldives exports more jihadists per capita to fight in conflicts in countries like Syria than any other country in the world. Internet sites that according to the government ‘spread religion other than Islam’ are blocked, including Youtube and Facebook. Criticism of Muhammed is criminalized. Openly expressing religious beliefs other than Islam is criminalized. Worshipping in a church is criminalized, even for foreigners.”
But Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea has not forgotten the small handful of Maldivians who live secretly as Christians, having converted either as a result of hearing the Christian message during time spent abroad or through interaction with Christian foreigners who visit the Maldives.
“Our ‘True Voice of Martyrs’ Maldives radio broadcast is a way to let the Maldivian church know every day that they are not forgotten,” says Representative Foley. “It is the safest possible way to give them the tools they need to grow as Christians—Bible readings, sermons, encouragement from other persecuted Christians around the world. All they need to do is tune in on the radio.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea CEO Pastor Eric Foley records a daily radio broadcast to the Maldives.
Representative Foley says that the broadcast signal has thus far evaded jamming by state level actors while remaining easy for any Maldivian to access. She says her organization has also received contact from listeners to the broadcast in India, Philippines, Morocco, Japan, China, Germany, Australia, Austria, and the United States. “The broadcast includes segments in both Dhiveli, the official language of the Maldives, and English, which is more and more the language of the young in the Maldives,” she says. “The strong signal makes it possible for us to reach even Maldivians studying abroad in places like India and Sri Lanka.”
Representative Foley notes that as much as 25% of the Maldivian population has regularly listened to popular shortwave broadcasts in recent years.
Representative Foley says that her hope is that Christians who are thinking of traveling to the Maldives would instead use their funds to support the Voice of the Martyrs Korea radio broadcast and then stay home and pray for Maldivian Christians.
“Pray daily for the underground church in the Maldives,” says Representative Foley. “Pray that they would continue to trust fully in the Word of God despite the difficult circumstances. And pray daily for the True Voice of Martyrs broadcast to the Maldives to remain clear and strong. Pray that any efforts by the government to stop the broadcast will only further the proclamation of the gospel and pray that many new listeners will discover the broadcast and its message of salvation in Christ alone.”
Those interested in donating to support Voice of the Martyrs’ daily radio broadcast to the Maldives can do so at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or via electronic transfer to:
국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the word “Maldives” with the donation.