For these Somali believers in the Horn of Africa, a region which includes Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Eritrea, choosing to follow Jesus is a huge risk. Most Somali Christians keep their faith completely secret, and those who dare to share their faith with others must do so very carefully. 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 by extremists.
Our courageous Somali brothers and sisters believe that following Jesus is worth the risk – but that doesn’t make it easy. These five secret believers all attend Muktar’s secret church in the Horn of Africa – please pray for protection, strength and encouragement for them today.
Saleh, one of the first believers
Saleh* is in his 40s. He’s been attending Muktar’s secret church for the ten years it has been running. At times he has been filled with fear and dread – not surprising given the consequences if his secret faith is discovered. But he says, “Through the teaching at this fellowship, I found peace of mind.”
Fistum, the bold evangelist
Fistum* is an energetic young man of about 20. He says, “As I grew up I did not believe in God. And I used to be addicted to drugs. After I lost my dad, I showed disrespect to everyone, including my mother who was a Christian.
“But one day I had a dream about John 14:1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.’ I realised that I was in darkness. I went to church and accepted Christ. From that day onwards my life was stable.
“Here at the fellowship I learned how to connect with God, how to read the Bible and how to share the gospel with others. It has changed my life!”
Despite the risks he faces if he is discovered by Islamic extremists, Fistum is bold in sharing his faith with his friends. He says, “I tell all my friends that God is our strength if we are His. I gave some of them Bibles and took them to church. A few received Jesus. I am so excited!”
Aziza, the new believer
Aziza* has just been attending Muktar’s secret church for a few months. “Before I started attending, I never prayed or read the Bible; I just spent my time watching movies. But now I understand how important it is to do these things.”
Birtukan, whose life was turned around
Birtukan* is a mother two. “I was in a storm, especially when I got pregnant with my second child. I could not tell my problems to anyone. One day I planned to throw my newborn into the ocean, but on my way to the beach I met a Christian woman who tried to preach to me. I told her, ‘I have no home, I have no job, I have argued with my husband… I am irritated; please don’t talk to me now. I cannot listen to your gospel now.'“
But the woman would not leave Birtukan alone, and brought her to Muktar’s secret church. Since then, she has become a follower of Christ, and the believers in the church have been by her side and helped her all the way. She loves studying the Bible. “I did not think I would survive; I used to drink, I used to smoke… It’s Jesus that changed my whole life! This fellowship has helped sustain my faith and has kept me close to the Lord.”
Zemzem, who prays for you
You may remember Zemzem* from our May 2015 magazine. When she became a Christian, she was imprisoned for a time, and her husband divorced her, leaving her to care for their two young sons without any help. Your support enabled Open Doors to provide for her practical needs, such as buying her a bed and cooking utensils, and helped her to start a small business.
Despite everything that she has been through, Zemzem loves to share her faith with others, and really appreciates the teaching she receives in Muktar’s group. She says, “This training taught us to preach the gospel in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is deeply rooted in my heart, so I preach the gospel. And my children and I pray every morning and evening for those who make these discipleship classes possible.”
Help leaders like Muktar to reach more secret believers
Muktar* leads this group of believers. He had to flee to escape persecution from his family when he became a Christian, but was eventually ordained as a pastor, and felt called to serve the Somali people.
Being a church leader is always challenging, but being a church leader in a part of the world where that makes you a target for Islamic extremists seems completely impossible. Incredibly, God has given Muktar the vision and courage to carry out this dangerous work. Muktar says, “Our vision is to reach the Somali people according to their language and culture and plant churches among them.”
You can help to make Muktar’s vision a reality through your prayers and gifts. Every £34 could provide training to help a secret church leader like Muktar to be effective in their outreach and know how to care for new believers facing persecution.
Muktar says, “Please pray for us. We always pray for all of you.”
*names changed for security reasons