Keeping the Faith in Africa’s Most Violent Country

Christians in Somalia. (PHOTO: COMITATO ATLANTICO)

With his head down and his hands between his knees, Abdullahi, leaned forward in the chair slowly recounting a heartrending story of how his wife and children had been stolen from him.

The moment – what he described as the most “heartbreaking” in his life – came at the hands of Somalia’s close-knit clan structure. Abdullahi and his wife Hani have been married many years and though they have four children of their own, they have adopted five more. With nine children aged thirteen to two their life was full and happy. That is until almost twelve months ago when Hani’s family learned that she and the children had decided to follow Abdullahi’s Christian faith. Hani’s family arrived and in dramatic fashion literally stole away Hani and the nine children and for almost a year have virtually excluded them from all outside contact. A dark cloud of pain was evident as Abdullahi shared the raw reality of separation, a father barred from the lives of his own children, and of returning each night to dusty toys, a cold bed and an emptied home.

Yet with resolve in his voice Abdullahi looked across the room and said, “This is my prayer, ‘Lord will you give me joy? I am trying to be the light and the salt. And when those who know what has happened to me, how my family has been stolen away, ask, how can he have joy, I will be able to share with them about Jesus.'”

Abdullahi and his family are part of a small but growing underground community of Christian believers in Somalia. Alongside Shia Muslims, as religious minorities, Christians face tremendous pressure, societal resistance and outright fear. As noted in the recently released USCIRF report, “although conversion is currently legal in Somalia, it is not accepted socially.” Some experts rank Somalia second, only behind North Korea, as the most difficult place in the world to be Christian. In a country of ten million, there is exactly one legally allowed church and there are reports from earlier this year of Somalians suspected of converting to Christianity being beheaded.

Christians are far from the only ones suffering in what may be the most violent and failed state in Africa. In 2017, Freedom House scored Somalia with the lowest possible marks for political rights and civil liberties while the country is ranked twelfth in the world by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as most likely to experience state-led mass killings. The Global Peace Index ranks Somalia 159th out of 163 countries while Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index gives Somalia the absolute lowest score.

These challenges are resulting in a large exodus with roughly one million, or ten percent of the population, having fled as refugees and another ten percent internally displaced. In terms of mass refugee production, Somalia only fares better than Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Elijah M. Brown