“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Robert Kennedy, University of Cape Town, 7 June 1966.
The Maldives is a place in need of such ripples of hope, such a current of justice. In a move the importance of which was outweighed only by the absence of consequent news coverage, a redrafted Maldivian constitution was announced last year. It was mostly welcomed  due to the reforms of the existing one-party system that it included.
However the redraft, undertaken by a barrister who trained in Britain, states in article 9, section D that, “a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives”.  This article takes precedence in the new constitution over other passages that define citizenship and raises questions for anyone who is already a citizen of the Maldives but does not adhere to Islam. Under the constitution only citizens have a right to employment, higher education, ownership of property and freedom of movement. Any Maldivian choosing to change religion and, for instance, become a Christian, would be denied all of these rights. It is the under reporting of these facts that concerns us at Barnabas Fund.
This is a clearly codified violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” In the most absurd breach of this statement, burial provisions are made only for citizens. 
These provisions fix for future generations a most oppressive framework and prevent émigré workers (who form a significant portion of the non-Muslim believers in the Maldives)  from gaining Maldivian citizenship. The stipulation that converting from Islam will entail the loss of citizenship amounts to a blanket, although largely non-violent, oppression.
Needless to say there are no churches in the Maldives.
With biblical literature being heavily monitored and only the Gospel of Luke  currently available in Dhivehi (the local language) through the Bible Society of the Maldives, opportunities to learn about Christianity are seriously restricted. Even foreign workers are unable to practise their faith in private  due to cramped living conditions and thin walls that make private worship practically impossible. Even foreign workers meeting in rented accommodation to worship in private run the risk of deportation if their landlord receives a complaint. 
Thus the tenuous position of the 300 or so Christians and 1,300 or so Buddhists  across the archipelagic state continues despite the increasing prevalence of the tourist trade, although travel guidelines now explicitly state that “public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited and importation of non-Islamic religious material is illegal”. In the past, overseas visitors have been expelled for allegedly engaging in religious preaching. 
Sometimes injustice presents itself very clearly. This is such a case, which, if anything, is amplified by the contrast with the Maldives’ reputation as a beach idyll. For international law to be upheld, such contravention needs to be aired, or else such oppression merely becomes accepted. We may not be able to cast the first stone, but we should still be making waves.
 Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, Carlisle: Paternoster, 2001. Pp. 427 and ibid.