How many Christians are there in Somalia?
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 17.3 million, because of the extreme secrecy they are forced to live in.
How are Christians persecuted in Somalia?
The dangers of being a Christian in Somalia are extreme. Most, if not all, Christians in the country are converts from Muslim backgrounds. That makes each believer a high-value target for al-Shabaab, a militant group that has repeatedly expressed its desire to eradicate Christians from the country. If discovered, believers could be killed on the spot.
In Somali society, leaving Islam is regarded by many as a betrayal of culture and clan. Those suspected of conversion face intense pressure from their family and local community, which can lead to harassment, intimidation and even murder. Women may be kept under strict house arrest or forcibly married to a Muslim. Men who are suspected of conversion will be pressurised into different activities – like leading prayers at mosques, or marrying more than one wife – to test where their true allegiance lies.
Church life in Somalia is non-existent, and in recent years the dangers facing Christians appear to have worsened, as Islamic militants have intensified their hunt for Christian leaders. Attempts to establish or re-open churches have been met with fierce resistance.
In the last year, al-Shabaab has persistently carried out its operations, despite government efforts to reclaim territories from the group. Suicide bombings and various forms of violence have continued, as have attacks targeting Christians. This has led to many Christians fleeing for their lives, with some even opting to leave the country altogether.
“I decided 100 times to leave Jesus and not to follow Him – but I couldn’t do it. I decided to follow Him.”ayesha, a Somali Christian in the horn of africa
What’s life like for Christians in Somalia?
“We are thankful to those women who tried to kill her.” That’s what Ayesha’s* uncle told the authorities, after she was brutally stabbed for being a Christian. Can you imagine your own relatives being grateful to your would-be murderer?
Ayesha is a Somali Christian, living on the Horn of Africa. Like most of the small number of Somali Christians, she converted from Islam. “I researched Christianity and the Quran for three years,” she remembers. “After that, I knew where the truth is: I received Jesus.”
It was a decision that came at great cost. Ayesha’s husband left her. Then her in-laws subjected her to endless persecution. “The family tried to take my children from me forcefully.”
Somali believers like Ayesha often facing appalling persecution from their family, their community and even strangers – like the women who stabbed her. Choosing to follow Jesus brings life-threatening danger.
“I decided 100 times to leave Jesus – but I couldn’t do it,” says Ayesha. “The person who believes and receives Jesus cannot go back, no matter what. He did not hide anything from us. He told us the truth. If you want to follow Him, take up your cross.”
Open Doors partners are supporting Ayesha, and have done for years – with medical bills, trauma care and helping her start a small business. “I want to give thanks to Jesus,” she says. “He showed me the light, and I thank Him – and I thank you all.”
*Names changed for security reasons
How can I help Somali Christians?
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 by equipping them to cope with severe persecution.
Dear God, thank You for the bravery of believers in Somalia. May they feel the warmth and joy of Your presence. Encourage their hearts and provide ways for them to meet and share safely with other believers. Soften the hearts of those who persecute Your people, show them that You are Lord. We cry out to You today and ask that You supernaturally protect and strengthen our sisters and brothers in Somalia. Amen.