How many Christians are there in Somalia?
Open Doors estimates that there are only a few hundred Christians in Somalia – it is difficult to give a true figure, as believers must keep their faith an absolute secret.
Why are Christians persecuted in Somalia?
Islam is an important part of Somali identity, and for a Somali person to decide to leave Islam and follow Jesus is seen as a huge betrayal. Where the Middle East has the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the Horn of Africa has the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab. This group has stated publicly that it ‘wants Somalia free of all Christians’.
“Although I want to tell the world that I am a Christian, I don’t because I fear for my life. But God makes it possible for me to survive.” Hassan, Somali convert to christianity
What’s life like for Christians in Somalia?
Hassan’s father, Aaden*, an illiterate shepherd in Somalia, met Jesus in visions while out herding the animals. Hassan tells us, “In these visions, Christ appeared to him and said, ‘It’s me, Isa. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.’”
When Aaden chose to follow Jesus, he was brutally attacked with a panga (a tool similar to a machete) – he still bears the scars today. When Hassan also decided to become a Christian, while he did not face the brutal persecution his father did, he was rejected by his community and insulted, leaving him feeling lonely and isolated.
Most Somali Christians keep their faith completely secret. Islam is an important part of Somali identity, and for a Somali person to decide to leave Islam and follow Jesus is seen as a huge betrayal – and one that could lead to immediate execution. If al-Shabaab find someone who has become a Christian, the militants will often kill them on the spot.
The many Somalis who live in other parts of the Horn of Africa, such as Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, also face huge challenges if they decide to follow Jesus. Radical Islam is growing across the region, and if the secret faith of our brothers and sisters is discovered, they can face attack and exile from their friends and neighbours, and even their own families.
One of the ways that Open Doors works to support isolated believers like Hassan is through the radio. Open Doors has been partnering with others to produce radio programmes in the Somali language, and our partners have been broadcasting Somali songs, poetry and preaching in the Horn of Africa for the past 19 years! These programmes are also bringing the gospel to those who may never have heard it before, even in parts of the Horn of Africa where evangelism should be completely impossible.
This year has brought the added challenge of coronavirus. According to the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group, infectious diseases such as Covid-19 are spread ‘by the crusader forces [Christians] who have invaded the country and the disbelieving countries that support them’. This rhetoric puts Christians in the country even more at risk of persecution – although an encouraging positive is Muslim clerics have taken some action to counter the lies.
How can I help Somali Christians?
Please keep praying for your Somali brothers and sisters. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
As well as these radio programmes, Open Doors supports Somali believers across the Horn of Africa focusing on discipleship support, literature distribution and community development.
*Names changed for security reasons
Lord Jesus, thank You that You are still bringing Somali people to know Your love. May You protect all those who must keep their faith in You a secret, and may You turn the hearts of al-Shabaab militants to Yourself. Help Somali Christians to keep following You, and help them to be a light to others.