Western Sahara, North Africa
Political Leader: President Mohamed Abdelaziz
Religions: Islam 100%
Persecution Ranking: Not Ranked
Number of Terrorist Groups: 1
Acts of Terrorism: 3; Casualties: 9
Percent of Corruption: Insufficient Data to Rank
% of People in Poverty: Not Ranked
Western Sahara is a territory of northwestern Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria in the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands.
Although there have been no recent attacks in Western Sahara, there have been serious incidents in Morocco, including in May 2003, when 45 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Casablanca, according to England’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The status of the territory of the Western Sahara is disputed between Morocco and the Polisario Front. There has been a U.N.-monitored cease-fire in the territory since 1991. In June 2007, the U.N. brokered talks between the two sides but a return to fighting cannot be ruled out, and the Polisario Front issues periodic threats to resume hostilities. There are occasional violent demonstrations in the territory.
Western Sahara has been a disputed territory since Spain withdrew in 1975. Morocco controls 80% of the land, while the remaining 20% is controlled by the Polisario, an independence movement established in 1973, and the government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR. Polisario resisted in a guerrilla war that ended in 1991 with a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, leaving several thousands dead on both sides. A U.N.-mandated vote on independence foundered over disagreements about who should vote.
Polisario still wants a referendum on Western Sahara’s future. Morocco rules that out and proposes limited autonomy. Morocco fears losing Western Sahara would undermine the authority of King Mohamed VI. Western Sahara’s population of around 400,000 are overwhelmingly followers of Sunni Muslim along with some animistic practices. Western Sahara’s Sahrawi people have been tortured, kidnapped and separated from their families in a humanitarian crisis that has lasted for more than 30 years. Presently, camps run by the Cuban-backed Polisario Front exist in southern Algeria, where thousands of indigenous Sahrawi people are sequestered and treated inhumanely. Public beatings are common and young children are taken from their families and sent to Cuba for re-education.
Challenges for Christians:
Western Sahara has a few isolated Christian Believers. The Polisario has formed an effective administration over the territory they control. There are no known cases of persecution of Christians, but there is usually intense social pressure from family members to leave Christianity. Morocco is trying to develop the area under its control. Although the constitution grants freedom of religion, restrictions are applied. All religious groups are monitored to ensure that adherents do not stray into politics.
- Pray for a resolution of the disputed status of Western Sahara.
- Pray for healing and restoration of the families of the Sahrawi people. Pray that the Saharawi will discover the abundant life found in Jesus.
- Pray for fellowship and discipleship of all Christians. Pray for Believers to receive greater acceptance in society.
- Pray for whole families, heads of households and men of influence to find Christ (Acts 16:30-34).
Sources: Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, National Clergy Council, LifeAgape International, Barnabus Fund, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Forum 18 News Service, Jubilee Campaign, Middle East Concern, the Associated Press and 3P Ministries, England’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office