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Jesus tells illiterate shepherd 'Do not be afraid for I am with you'

Aaden* was a Somali herdsman with little education – he couldn’t read or write. But when he was out herding his animals, he had visions of Jesus. His son, 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 decided to follow ‘Isa’, the Arabic name for Jesus, he faced horrific persecution. Hassan says, "My father was beaten and even slashed with a panga (a tool similar to a machete). He has scars all over his body from that persecution.

"When the attacks did not work, the community offered him money to return to Islam. He never gave in to their pressures. This is when his family and the community rejected him, pulled away from him. Nobody wanted to talk to him and when they did, all he got was verbal abuse. Eventually we were thrown out."

Secret believers

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.

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 publically that it ‘wants Somalia free of all Christians’, and they have intensified their search for Christians in the last year. If they find someone who has become a Christian, the militants will often kill them on the spot. At least 23 suspected Christians were murdered in Somalia last year.

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.

I did not have any friends

When Hassan decided to became a Christian, he didn’t experience the levels of violent persecution that his father did, but he still faced rejection and insults. "People told me that I had become like my father. They told me, ‘You are a ‘kafir’ (infidel)! You don’t deserve to be among us!’" Watch an interview with him below.

"I did not have any friends. I was very lonely. I had no one to talk to. 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 this isolation."

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! And it’s the faithful prayers and long-term support of people like you that are making this work possible, bringing light into the darkness of isolation faced by believers like Hassan, and helping them to keep going.

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. Thank you for giving lost Somali people the chance to be found by the love of Jesus.

* name changed for security reasons

Stand with your Somali brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa

Open Doors workers are able to assure Hassan that, despite being very isolated as a Somali Christian and having no church to go to, he has a global church family. He asks that we stand with him and other Somali believers in prayer.

Hassan says, "Please pray for Somali believers everywhere. Pray that Somali believers will stand strong in the faith and not be swept away by the big waves of persecution. The pressure on them is very intense."

You can also give to support our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa who are taking huge risks to follow Jesus. Every £25 could put Bibles into the hands of five believers in the Horn of Africa.