February 29 - Statelessness

Pray today

Statelessness is a global issue that most of us never even think about. There are at least 4 million people without any nationality, possibly as high as 12 million. People are made – or born – stateless for several reasons. The most common reason is discrimination against specific ethnic minorities, or religions, or against women. Sometimes, gaps in the law, or the sudden change in national boundaries, or the break-up of countries into new nations creates many thousands of stateless people. Without nationality, people are often denied basic rights, such as health care, employment, housing, or education. They are also likely to struggle to get ID cards, bank accounts, vote in elections, or even legally get married. They cannot pass on any nationality to their children. They are particularly vulnerable to injustice and exploitation. #IBelong is a 10-year campaign to end statelessness that concludes in 2024. While much progress has been made, statelessness very much still exists. Pray for:

  • Stateless people to be able to acquire citizenship. This is a basic human right and conveys many legal protections and opportunities that most of us take for granted. While every country has problems, to be without any country is an even worse situation. 
  • God to protect vulnerable stateless people from those who would persecute, exploit, or otherwise take advantage of them. The most common exploitation is undocumented labour (usually for a pittance), but there are many other forms of exploitation. May the God who protected Hagar and Ishmael and then the descendants of Jacob in Egypt guard those who find themselves in similar situations.
  • Christian organizations and local believers and churches to seek out stateless people to show them the love of Jesus. They are certainly in need of much that the body of Christ can offer and would likely be very responsive to many kinds of ministry. While they are usually off of most people's radar, these people are not invisible to God. May they no longer be invisible to the Church! 


Some examples of stateless people (only a few among many): 

  • The bidoon (which literally means “without”) are descendants of Bedouin peoples who were not able to acquire citizenship when Kuwait became independent in 1961.  
  • In Nepal, women married to foreign men are not allowed to pass their citizenship to their children. There are also many thousands of Hindus in Nepal who were expelled from Buddhist Bhutan but have not been granted Nepali citizenship. 
  • In Europe, many Roma people were left stateless when their previous countries – Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia – broke apart and none of the resulting nations wanted to give nationality to the Roma.  
  • Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are denied citizenship by both Bangladesh and Myanmar.  
  • Many ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia have been denied citizenship since the Soviet Union broke apart. 
  • Thailand has around half a million stateless people – mostly hill tribes living in the remote border areas with Laos and Myanmar as a well as the Mok “Sea Gypsies” on the Andaman coast.  
  • Côte d’Ivoire has nearly 700,000 stateless people. They are children and grandchildren of the large numbers who moved there as undocumented labourers from neighbouring countries, especially Burkina Faso. 
  • Both Syria and Iraq have stripped citizenship from many Kurdish people – a persecuted minority. That the Kurdish homelands straddle these nations as well as Iran and Turkey makes it easier to deny them nationality. 
  • Children born to refugee/migrant women are frequently stateless or at risk of statelessness. These include large numbers of Venezuelans in Colombia, Syrians in Lebanon, Haitians in Dominican Republic, and more.  

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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.