Since last month, authorities in Mauretania, outraged by a prominent Christian pastor baptizing people, have reportedly arrested 15 Christian leaders, church members, and children. Joseph Daniel of International Christian Concern (ICC) says some have since been released, but the situation is far from settled.
"The incident kind of ruptured … after a video of a baptism went viral," Daniel reports. "Basically, there's a leading Mauritanian Christian who has had a very fruitful ministry for over a decade, and somebody from the inside -- sources that I've heard said it was for monetary gain -- shared a video that he took of a baptism."
The Mauritanian government, an Islamic Republic, firmly believes the arrests were necessary for addressing the country's "Christian problem."
"It is one of the countries where in the actual legal code apostasy is punishable by death," Daniel explains. "Apostasy here is defined pretty broadly. It could be everything from publicly leaving Islam, or it even could be just insulting certain aspects of the religion."
Though Article 306 of the penal code is not always applied, Daniel says it is serious because it could be used at any time.
He adds that Christians who are persecuted generally ask their brothers and sisters for three things, and that is for them to pray, pray, pray.