What does persecution look like in Somalia?
Somalia is a majority Muslim nation and society expects all Somalis to be Muslim. Imams in mosques and madrassas state publicly that there is no room for Christianity, Christians or churches. The violent insurgent group al-Shabaab has repeatedly expressed its desire to eradicate Christians from the country. Christians from Muslim backgrounds are regarded as high-value targets and may be killed on the spot if discovered.
Christians also face serious persecution from their family and community. Leaving Islam is regarded as a betrayal of the family and clan, and family members and clan leaders will harass, intimidate and even kill Somali converts. Anyone even suspected of being a Christian convert is closely monitored by the elders in the community, and even by their own family members. ‘Church life’ is simply not possible, so the few believers must meet in secret. Islamic militants have intensified their hunt for people who are Christian and in a position of leadership.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christians from a Muslim background are most vulnerable to persecution. Converts from Islam to Christianity are regarded as a high-value target by al-Shabaab militia and many converts have been killed on the spot when discovered. Young female converts to Christianity are particularly vulnerable. They are oppressed and exploited both on grounds of their faith and their gender. Young Christian girls are forced into marriages, in which they face sexual harassment, physical violence and pressure to adhere to conservative Muslim practices in an attempt to 'rehabilitate' them.
No region of Somalia is safe for Christians. However, areas in the south and southwest that under the control of al-Shabaab are the most dangerous.
"When I got home, the men in my family were waiting for me. They beat me and took my mobile phone and they locked me up in a room. They said, ‘We have heard that you are corrupted,’ but they have never once used the word ‘Christian’”Nala is a Somali believer forced to flee the country
What has changed this year?
Christians in Somalia continue to face an extreme level of violence, which has worsened in recent years. Islamic militants have intensified their hunt for people who are Christian. Their goal, as they stated on many occasions, is to free Somali from any Christians. During the past year, al-Shabaab carried out a number of violent attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, killing many soldiers and hundreds of civilians. Hundreds more were wounded. The political landscape has deteriorated, and tribal leaders, the government and opposition leaders disagree on crucial issues such as holding elections. Taking advantage of this fragmentation, jihadist groups have increased their numbers of followers and escalated their bid for control of the country's territories. Even though the election was finally held and transfer of power took place, the friction has showed the fragility of the current state of affairs.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Somalia?
Open Doors supports Somali believers across the Horn of Africa through discipleship training and equipping them to cope with severe persecution.
How can you pray for Somalia?
- Violent Islamic extremism is increasing. Pray for peace and for God’s protection over His church
- Somali believers face great isolation. Pray that they will know God’s comfort and find ways to grow in their faith
- Pray for God’s wisdom and protection over Open Doors' work in the Horn of Africa and that it will bear much fruit.
Father God, we recognize the dangers that our Somali brothers and sisters face, simply for following Christ. Cast Your protection over secret believers, and those whose faith has been discovered. Heal those who have been harmed physically and emotionally. Comfort those who have lost a family member because of their faith. Intervene in the hearts of extremists to put an end to the violence and restore peace to this region. Move in powerful, supernatural ways to eradicate fear, intimidation and violence. Amen.