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Holistic Ministry

Statelessness – a word many don’t understand

Statelessness – a word many don’t understand and a problem the majority of Americans will never have to face. According to Open Society Foundations, a stateless person is one who has no citizenship recognized by any government. Statelessness rips away a person’s “right to have rights” in this world as no government claims them as their own. It is estimated that 15 million people in the world are stateless, 6 million of which are children.


Statelessness leads to marginalization because without the protection of citizenship, stateless peoples often can’t attend school, get jobs, receive basic medical care, obtain a passport, receive access to the justice system, own land or open a bank account. Without proof of citizenship or birth records, stateless children are often targets of violence and sex trafficking as they are easier to hide and manipulate.

Causes of statelessness
There are several causes which create stateless people, poverty being at the forefront of statelessness as in many countries a fee is required to register children. Another leading cause of statelessness is the failure to take the steps to register children. According to the Youth Advocate Program International, many countries require birth registration; however, countries like Cambodia, Ethiopia, Oman and Namibia do not require this basic right. “Birth registration is the first right of a child,” says ZoeBakoko-Bakoru, the Minister of Gender, Labor, and Social Development in Uganda. The worldwide estimate is that 41% of births are not registered each year, whether to do with poverty or neglect of the parents; almost half of the world’s babies are born without their first right.


Another cause of statelessness is when one government obtains control of an area due to political unrest or hostile occupation. The people living in those areas lose or cannot gain citizenship. Some examples of groups that remain stateless because of political unrest are the Roma, Bedoons, Kurds, Palestinians and Tibetans.

According to YAP International, legal barriers also hinder applying for citizenship as some ethnicities are considered undesirable. Governments can exclude ethnicities or religions that it wishes to marginalize from citizenship and registration of births. The legal system also comes into play for children that are considered “illegitimate.” Typically this means children born out of wedlock. However, in some states, this can also include children from a marriage which the government does not recognize. For example, some Islamic governments do not acknowledge the marriage between a Muslim woman and a Christian man.


Due to the marginalization of Christians in some Islamic nations, statelessness becomes a cost of discipleship. The majority of the Christian community understands some aspects of the cost of discipleship for Muslims who choose to follow Christ. They can be ostracized from family, forced to leave their home, imprisoned and killed. What may not be evident is that the choice to follow Christ, in some cases, results in the denial of citizenship and basic human rights to your children. The decision to lay down your life for Christ, often in real ways, also places your family on the margins of society. It is a choice which could cost you the chance to get a reputable job, marry well, obtain a passport or be protected by the laws that govern the nation.

What’s this mean to you?
Today, how often do Westerners have to make the sacrifice of crippling the future of their children in order to follow Christ? Do we understand that to some, proclaiming His name means turning your back on a quality education and a reputable future for generations to come?

Christians today complain about sacrifice of the 10% tithe, the quality of worship music on Sunday mornings and the types of people showing up at their churches. What about the sacrifice of life? Muslim background believers whole-heartedly have to put their lives in the hands of Jesus – not through words, as so many Westerners do, but through action.

So, let me ask you a question: What price are you willing to pay to become a follower of Christ?

Prayer focus

  • Please pray for the 15 million people in the world who are stateless, 6 million of which are children
  • Pray for those in governmental and non-governmental organizations who are addressing the issues of poverty, justice, education and more for these people, including OC field workers throughout the world
  • Pray for God’s protection for the stateless Christians that they will stand strong in their faith, sharing Jesus’ love with those around them

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