In a small single-room house in the Banaadir district of Somalia, dozens of Christians worship in secret out of fear of persecution in a country where no official churches exist. They sing, dance and testify, although not as exuberantly as in Christian services held in other African nations. In August 2017, the only remaining Catholic church in Somalia was closed a few days after it opened temporarily. Sheikh Khalil, the minister for religious affairs in Somaliland, an autonomous region in the country, told journalists at the time. “We will never allow any new church to be built in Somaliland.”
“I thank you, Jesus, for giving me this opportunity to worship you,” said a man wearing a red cap as he stood among the other congregants. “Protect my family and all Christians around the world. We know and believe that Jesus, you are the lion of Judah who can defeat our enemies.”
Hundreds of Christians in Somalia, typical foreigners from nearby countries who work across the East African nation, fear Muslim extremists—both jihadists in al-Shabaab, a group linked to al-Qaida, and rogue elements among their otherwise peaceful neighbors—would kill them if they knew they held Christian services.
Around 99.8% of Somalis are Muslim, according to the World Bank.
“We meet secretly in one of our houses and pray,” said the pastor, who asked that his name not be used out of fear for his security. “It’s always a normal service but there’s no shouting and singing loudly. The people around here are not friendly, especially when they discover you are a serious Christian.”
“It’s very dangerous for anyone to identify you as a Christian in this country. You will, in fact, be counting your days on Earth,” he said, adding that he stayed in the country to spread the gospel and earn a paycheck. “So we are always silent as long as we meet and share the word of God in private. But we have always trusted Jesus for protection as the Bible says.”
In recent years, the situation for Christians in the Horn of Africa has worsened. Al-Shabaab militants hunt for Christians. The militant group holds to the strict Islamic doctrine of Wahhabism and promotes an extreme version of Sharia law. Local clan elders support them, acting as intelligence gatherers who report suspected non-Muslims.
The U.S. State Department has labelled al-Shabaab one of several “entities of particular concern,” based on a recommendation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. That label is used for groups that commit “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations” of religious freedom, according to USCIRF.
- Let us remember that Al-Shabaab is not almighty. They are dangerous and evil, but only God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is Almighty. Pray for the salvation of key militant leaders in al-Shabaab.
- Pray for the protection of the Christians. There are initiatives through which the church in Somalia is growing. Pray that they can continue to do their work – even though it is in secret. Pray that it will be very effective.
- Pray for the use of internet-media by Christians in different ways and that it will be very effective.