It is estimated that there are only a few hundred Christians. It’s very hard to know how many people in Somalia are Christian, from the population of 16.8 million, because of the extreme secrecy they are forced to live in.
Society expects all Somalis to be Muslim. Imams in mosques and madrassas state publicly that there is no room for Christianity, Christians or churches. Christians from Muslim backgrounds are regarded as high-value targets and may be killed on the spot if discovered.
Believers 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 have stated on many occasions, is to rid Somalia of any Christians.
Christians also face serious persecution from their family and community. Leaving Islam is regarded as a betrayal, and 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.
If a woman is suspected of being a Christian, she may be kept under strict house-arrest, raped, abducted, forcibly married to a radical sheikh or killed. If she is already married, her husband is likely to divorce her and take her children away. Christian men and boys are at risk of verbal abuse, physical assault, abduction, imprisonment, torture or death. Converts find it impossible to trust even their own family members.
“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.”Nala, a Somali believer forced to flee the country
When Nala (name changed) heard about Jesus online, from Somali converts living abroad, she was initially shocked. But she kept exploring: “I started to look for more videos and found others who shared the Word of God,” says Nala. “I connected with them through Facebook and asked them to tell me about Christ.”
After a while, she chose to follow Jesus! She met with other secret believers and was eventually baptised. Unfortunately, while Nala was exploring her new faith, her family became increasingly suspicious and tricked Nala into coming home by telling her that her mother was dying. “When I got home, the men in my family were waiting for me,” Nala says. “They beat me and took my mobile phone and locked me up in a room.”
The following days and weeks were torturous. “They tried different rituals to fix what was ‘wrong’ with me. Sometimes they put a lightbulb against my head and repeated words from the Quran over and over… They even tried some concoctions on me.”
Her family then pledged her in marriage to a sheikh who already had two wives. But a few days before the wedding, Nala ran away and hid with friends, who helped her to escape the country. Her life has changed completely and she lives in danger, but does not regret choosing to follow Jesus.
“Jesus had changed me. I realised that I didn’t choose Him, but He chose me. I didn’t go out looking for Him, but He found me. Previously I didn’t have happiness, but now I have joy… I know that until I came to know Jesus, I knew nothing at all.”
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters from Somalia. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors supports Somali believers across the Horn of Africa through discipleship training and equipping them to cope with severe persecution.
Father God, we recognise 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.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.