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Somalia: A short history of persecution

02 June 2015

Somalia is number 2 on our World Watch List, second only to North Korea for the persecution of Christians. In every sphere of life - family, community, and national - the discovery that someone is a Christian means life-threatening danger, often leading to on-the-spot executions. Muslim background believers usually face beheading at the hands of extremists. But how did Somalia become like this?

1960 - Independence

The Independent Somali Republic is formed when the British protectorate and Italian colony merge. France, Egypt, Britain and Italy all laid claims to parts of this region in the previous century.

1969 - 'Scientific Socialism'

Mohamed Siad Barre performs a coup and introduces 'Scientific Socialism', a Maoist cult. In the course of this process, properties owned by Christian missions and churches, including schools and clinics are seized, and Christians are expelled from the country.

1974 - Revival of Islamic extremism

A new law is introduced giving women the same inheritance rights as men. Religious leaders preaching against this new law are imprisoned or executed. The secular and reformist nature of the government undermines the Islamic identity of the Somali people, leading to a revival of Islamic extremism and a growth of clan-based Islamic extremist organisations. They aim to turn Somalia into an Islamic state.

1991 - Anarchy

Siad Barre's regime collapses, and Somalia descends into anarchy. Islamic extremist organisations gain more influence, and they form a committee of sheikhs to find and identify all Somali Christians, whether inside or outside of Somalia. Moreover, this committee appoints an armed group to execute all Somali Christians, leading to many killings among Somali Christians in Somalia and neighbouring countries. Somali Christians are forced to deny their faith, go into hiding, or become refugees.

2012 - Order restored (to an extent)

Somalia has a formal parliament for the first time in 20 years.

Today - Extreme persecution and steadfast faith

The government mainly controls towns and cities. Some of rural Somalia is in the hands of al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist group that has publicly declared it 'wants Somalia free of any Christians'.

The constitution of Somaliland, part of Somalia, states: "Islam is the religion of the Somaliland state, and the promotion of any religion in the territory of Somaliland, other than Islam, is prohibited." The constitution of Puntland, another area of Somalia, states: "Islam shall be the only Religion of the Regional Puntland State of Somalia. With the exception of Islam, no other religion can be spread in the Puntland State; the Laws and culture of the people shall be based on the Islamic Religion."

With such a history of persecution, it seems impossible that anyone could come to faith in Somalia - but nothing is impossible with God. Technologies such as radio, television and the internet are enabling Somali people to hear the gospel, and we have brothers and sisters in this nation who are standing firm, despite the risks they face. An Open Doors contact has said: "Amid the hardest times of persecution and executions of Christians, they have remained steadfast holding on to their Christian faith secretly."

SAY 'YES' TO YOUR PERSECTED CHURCH FAMILY IN THE HORN OF AFRICA

There are an estimated 20 million Somali people on earth, scattered across 19 countries - more Somalis live outside of Somalia than within the country itself. Millions of Somalis can be found in surrounding nations in the Horn of Africa, such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Please support your persecuted brothers and sisters in this region by:

Please pray:

  • That the Lord will be at work through His Holy Spirit in the lives of Somali people, and convict them of their need for the salvation that can be found in Christ alone
  • That our brothers and sisters in Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa will be filled with hope despite the difficult circumstances they face
  • For opportunities to fellowship and build one another up in safety
  • For more workers, and particularly for God's blessing on the slow and difficult work of discipleship
  • That more Somali people in will have contact with true Christians and hear the gospel. Pray for boldness and courage for all those in contact with Somali's abroad to use the opportunity to share Christ.

More News from Somalia:

Find out more about persecution in Somalia.