The islands struggle between coups and unemployment leads to adoption of Islamic law.
Many years ago the Comoros Islands were known for their exports of perfume essences, as well as vanilla and cloves. Also famous is the prehistoric deep sea fish known as the coelacanthe, thought to be long extinct, which was discovered off the coast earlier this century. Today, however, the Comoros have become the “Forgotten Islands.”
The Union of the Comoros (formerly Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoro Islands) consists of volcanic islands off the coast of Africa, 300 kilometers (200 miles) east of Mozambique. The Comoro are one of Islam’s southern most strongholds, adhering to a strict branch of the Sunni faith introduced by the “Shirazi” Arab migrants in the early 1500s.
The Comoro are an underdeveloped and poor nation with high unemployment. Most people are subsistence farmers. They are an artistic people: the women engage in needlework, the men in woodwork. They are proud of their religion and do not easily accept other religions. There are approximately 1,400 mosques throughout the three islands (the forth is French).
All open witness is forbidden, preaching the Gospel is illegal and Comoran Christians are not allowed to gather for public worship. The Bible is available in French and Arabic, and portions of the scripture are available in Comoran, however, with a literacy rate of just 56.5% (2003 estimate), recordings of the Gospel are much more effective. One African linguistic programme has translated the Gospel into three Comoran dialects and a recent report said that some Comoran have already given their lives to Christ.
Following a 1999 military coup, the May 2000 constitution did not allow for freedom of religion. The December 2001 constitution does provide for this freedom, however, it also makes Islam the state religion. There are two Roman Catholic churches and one Protestant church. Even before the 1999 coup the government had restricted the use of these churches to non-citizens only. Harassment and social discrimination of Christians is widespread.
* Pray that the Gospel would be made available (written or otherwise) to all the wonderful people of Comoros and pray especially the children can hear it (Genesis 12:1-3). Pray for the translation work being done.
* A radio specialist came to the islands this year and determined that most people listen to small local stations, not shortwave overseas stations. Pray that Christian music and storying tapes can infiltrate the radio stations and touch the lives of people for Jesus.
* One cassette tape of Bible stories in the local language is now in use. Others are in the planning stages for the coming year. Pray that this project will be successful and bring people to Christ.
* Pray against fear, witchcraft, curses, and conversations with jinn (evil spirits). Comorian people are bound by the spirit of fear to these practices. Only the stronger power of Jesus Christ can release this stronghold on peoples’ lives. (1 Peter 5:8, Matthew 10:28-30)
Background on Comoros (World Factbook)
Comoros has endured 19 coups or attempted coups since gaining independence from France in 1975, some attributed to France but difficult to prove. Its political infighting has lead to each island in the archipelago elected its own president and a new union president took office in May 2002. Although a tiny land area, it played a strategic role on the busy shipping lanes of the Mozambique Channel but the opening of the Suez Canal reduced the importance of the islands, hence, the “forgotten islands”. South Africa, Mozambique, France and some Arab nations still have a keen political interest in this small nation.
They are a friendly and hospitable people. In the more remote hill areas the people are largely descended from African ex-slaves living in traditional houses made of banana and coconut leaves or lava cemented with chalk and sand. Those in the cities are descendants of Arab nobility and live in more modern houses.
Economy of Comoros
One of the world’s poorest countries, Comoros is made up of three islands that have inadequate transportation links, a young and rapidly increasing population, and few natural resources. The low educational level of the labor force contributes to a subsistence level of economic activity, high unemployment, and a heavy dependence on foreign grants and technical assistance. Agriculture, including fishing, hunting, and forestry, contributes 40% to GDP, employs 80% of the labor force, and provides most of the exports. The country is not self-sufficient in food production; rice, the main staple, accounts for the bulk of imports.
Statistics on Comoros
Population: 737,284 (June 2012 est.). World rank #164
Life Expectancy at Birth: 62.74 years. World rank #182
Ethnic groups: Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalava
Religions: Sunni Muslim 98%, Roman Catholic 0.5%, Other 1.5%
Languages: Arabic (official), French (official), Shikomoro (a blend of Swahili and Arabic)
Literacy: 74.9%, male: 80.2%, female: 69.7%
School life expectancy: 11 years