Islamic Republic of Mauritania
August 9

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Area 1,030,700 Entirely desert apart from the north bank of the Senegal river on its southern border.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 2,669,547 +2.77% 3 per sq. km.
2010 3,455,905 +2.53% 3 per sq. km.
2025 4,766,399 +1.95% 5 per sq. km.

In 1970, 70% were nomadic, but drought and urbanization have reduced this to less than 20% today.

Capital Nouakchott 735,000. Urbanites 54%.


Numbers are estimates as ethnicity is a sensitive political issue, and not always clearly distinguished.

Arabic (Hassaniya-speaking) 70%. White Moors (Bidan) of Arab and Berber origin 1.1 mill. Black Moors (Haratine) 745,000, descended from slaves of the White Moors. There remains considerable discrimination by the dominant White Moors against other groups.

Black African 28.8%. Fulbe/Tukulor (Pulaar) 400,000; Wolof 200,000; Soninke 75,000; Bambara 30,000. Most are settled farmers in the south and despised by Moors.

Other 1.2%. French 13,000; other expatriates.

Literacy 38%. Official Language Arabic; the Hassaniya dialect is used. All Languages 8. Languages with Scriptures 1Bi 3NT 3w.i.p.


One of the world's poorest countries. Continuing drought in the 1970s and 1980s devastated the country and sparked inter-ethnic violence over severely limited water and arable land. Much income from exported fish and iron ore is lost to corruption. HDI 0.447; 149th/174. Public debt 186% of GNP. Income/person $470 (1.4% of USA)


Independent from France in 1960. A long succession of military coups that are a continuation of Moorish tribal warfare. Slavery was not officially abolished until 1980; there are still accusations of hidden pockets of slavery in the interior. The military junta transformed itself into a multi-party democracy in 1992, but the parliament is competely dominated by the ruling party. International relations have improved since then. The dictator-turned-president was again victorious in elections in 1998, although their validity has been questioned. Diplomatic ties with Israel have resulted in internal and external opposition to the government in 2000.


Officially an Islamic Republic, with shari'a law, but the latter is intermittently applied. There is no freedom for conversion to another religion and the sentence for apostacy is death – although this sentence has not been carried out in recent years. Proselytism is illegal, but there is some freedom of religion and conscience within Islamic expression.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 99.84 2,665,276 +2.8%
Christian 0.16 4,271 -2.7%

Christians Denom. Affil. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 4 0.02 0 +4.0%
Catholic 1 0.14 4 -2.9%
Marginal 1 0.0 0 +3.0%

Most of the Christians are expatriates.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 5 2,123 3,800
Evang. fellowships [2] P 5 175 250
Other denominations [3]   2 180 200
Total Christians [6]   12 2,478 4,250

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 0.0 0 +3.5%
Charismatic 0.0 0 +3.2%
  Pentecostal 0.0 0 +4.0%

Challenges for Prayer

1 Islam has been entrenched for 1,000 years with little challenge. Many are the barriers to change – low literacy, no Scriptures completed in Hassaniya Arabic, only a few local radio broadcasts from Senegal, and laws that forbid Mauritanians from hearing the gospel or converting to Christ. The government takes great pains to keep Christianity away from the people. The strong man must be bound and his captives released for a truly Mauritanian Church to become a reality.

2 Mauritania is one of the world's poorest countries. One third of children are malnourished, and when there is enough food, it is often too expensive for the poor to afford. While the government's obedience to World Bank economic liberalization has brought financial growth, it has also plunged many of the working poor into even greater poverty. Pray for wisdom and discernment on the part of the government, and that the hungry and poor may have the gospel proclaimed to them.

3 There are some expatriate Christians in Mauritania. Mainly Westerners and Koreans, they are involved in technical or professional work linked to NGOs or the fishing industry as well as a transient population of black Africans from other lands. Discouragement is easy because of the harsh climate (with sandstorms 200 days a year), the heat, and hostility to anything Christian. Expatriates suspected of trying to proselytize Mauritanians are subject to harassment, interrogation, brief imprisonment and even expulsion. Fellowship opportunities are limited, so ask God that their lives might demonstrate clearly the love of Christ. Pray also that the Lord might grant them wisdom, protection, and empowering.

4 All Mauritanian peoples are unreached, in that there are no peoples with an indigenous church under indigenous leadership. There are a handful of believers worldwide, but individuals showing interest in Chrisianity in the past have been imprisoned or tortured. Pray for freedom of religion in Mauritania. Pray also for seekers and believers, that the Lord might minster to them despite the lack of opportunities to hear and grow in the gospel.

5 Mauritanians in other lands present an opportunity. Mauritanian traders and herdsmen have spread over many countries in West Africa, including Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Côte d'Ivoire. Pray that these scattered people may be evangelized by all means. WEC has a work among them in Senegal. Ask the Lord to encourage and to increase the various Hassaniya speaking believers scattered through West Africa.

6 Unreached minorities:

a) The restive Haratine, who are Moors by culture and language but also the former slave class of Moorish society. Debate continues as to whether there are still Harantine slaves owned by White Moors.

b) The African peoples of the Senegal River Valley – the Tukulor, Fulbe, Soninke, Bambara and Wolof. These peoples have suffered much persecution at the hands of the Moor-dominated government, yet many previously exiled are now returning to their homeland. Their generation is more open to Christ due to the compassion shown by Christian agencies during their exile.

c) The nomads of the desert are descended from Berber and Arab Bedouin tribes. They are even less accessible due to their nomadic ways.

7 Other ministries:

a) Bible translation. Outside Mauritania efforts are underway to translate the Bible into Hassanyia Arabic. The Fulbe NT has recently been completed.

b) The JESUS film has much strategic potential, but copies are rare and distributing/ showing the film is very difficult. Nevertheless, it is available in the main languages.

c) Radio broadcasts, immune to closed borders, have not yet become a reality in Hassaniya Arabic. There is some programming in the Fulbe and Bambara languages.

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