Persecution in Somalia
"We are experiencing horrible things here every day. It appears that I live in hell on earth. I wish I could just stand inside a church and cry out in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
It seems a simple wish, to stand in a church. But this is completely impossible for this believer in Somalia, where even being suspected of being a Christian can lead to instant execution. At least 12 suspected converts were killed in 2016. The true number is likely to be higher; for their own safety, families would want to hide the fact that one of their relatives had been discovered following Jesus, and keep the true reason for their death a secret. In this reporting period, 70 converts were forced to leave the country, while 50 more were forced to relocate within Somalia.
The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has stated publically that it 'wants Somalia free of all Christians', and they are able to persecute Christians with impunity as the state is basically lawless. These militants have intensified their hunt for Christian leaders this year.
The government in Somalia is barely functional, meaning that the nation is largely governed by a tribal system. Many tribal leaders believe that being Somali means being Muslim, therefore leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of the tribe. Tribal leaders and family members will harass, intimidate and even kill those who decide to leave Islam.
The formal government, for what it's worth, allows anti-Christian sentiment to exist within the tribal system, and Islam is identified in the provisional constitution as the state religion, which also makes apostasy (leaving Islam) illegal. The government even directly banned any Christmas celebrations in December 2015.
Christians must keep their faith completely secret - even a positive response to a Christian post on social media can have serious consequences. Christians are able to gather together in small underground groups, but must constantly change the locations of their meetings to avoid monitoring by al-Shabaab militants or community leaders.
It seems impossible for anyone to come to faith in Somalia - but nothing is impossible with God. An Open Doors partners broadcasts a Christian radio programme into Somalia, and was told this by one believer: "I had been a conservative Muslim and I even used to preach at you, attempting to bring you back to Islam, but now I am a believer and that is because of your programme. I am no longer a Muslim because I received and accepted the gospel after I heard it from you.
"Don't think that I only chose Christianity because of its kindness and gentleness. I chose Christianity because it is the only religion that can provide ultimate salvation from sin and God's judgment through Jesus Christ. Your radio programme's long investment in my life in terms of teaching was not in vain."