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Life as a Somali Christian: It’s always dangerous to be around muslims




Often cited as the world’s best example of a “failed state,” Somalia has for several decades suffered from lawlessness and deprivation. Much of the country is extremely dangerous for anyone, and so it’s no surprise that members of its tiny Christian minority lead lives of constant fear.

There are also thousands of Somali Christians outside Somalia. Despite having escaped their troubled homeland, they still often face isolation and danger, largely due to members of the Somali expat community who revile them for abandoning Islam.

Few countries other than North Korea are more inhospitable toward Christianity than Somalia, an East African nation of about 16 million, almost all of whom are Muslim.

The U.S. Department of State reports that only 1,000 Christians live in Somalia. However, some sources — such as the Somali Bible Society — give a drastically higher number.

Ali (real name withheld for safety reasons), a Somali Christian in Uganda, agrees with the U.S. Department of State estimate. He adds, though, that there are “more than 5,000 Somali Christians outside of Somalia.” Ali says the number is growing slowly “because it’s not easy to preach the gospel to Somalis.”

Interestingly, though, at least one Christian organization has Somalia ranked far above the world average in terms of its evangelical annual growth rate.

It’s so difficult to be a Somali Christian that many might wonder why they would choose to convert.

Naomi (a pseudonym), a Somali Christian who helps produce Somali Christian TV, says that a significant portion of Somali Christian converts became so after growing disillusioned by the widespread killing of Muslims by other Muslims in Somalia.

Ali says that evangelizing through social media has also led a considerable number of Somalis to convert to Christianity.

It’s quite a decision to make: If discovered, everyone you know will likely disown you — or worse.

Ali says that, throughout most of Somalia, any Somali Christian who publicly “announces themselves will be killed.”

Just having a piece of ostensibly Christian literature could be enough to warrant lethal violence.

Though some of the attacks on Somali Christians are the work of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab, such violence is by no means relegated to the terrorist fringe. Rather, it reflects the mainstream Somali viewpoint, which predominates among those in power as well as among the impoverished masses comprising much of the bereft countryside.

“Outwardly, all Somali Muslims must support attacks on Somali Christians because otherwise they may not be seen as Muslim,” says Naomi. “Some, inwardly, may disagree but, due to the nature of the Somali community, they must appear to the others as though they condemn Somali Christians.”

If a Somali Muslim shows any sign of sympathy to the Somali Christians, then “somebody would suspect that they are an infidel … and they themselves could be in danger of being persecuted or killed,” says Naomi.

Even Somalis who were raised Christian risk being killed for their faith.

Ali relates that he still communicates with Somali Christians in the ravaged capital city of Mogadishu.

The Somali capital has a tiny community of elderly Catholics who grew up in an era when there was heavy Italian influence in Somalia, which became an independent country in 1960. Some of these longtime Christians have died of old age, while others have been murdered.

Though the danger for Somali Christians is less extreme outside Somalia, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe.

Somali pastors have been attacked in Ethiopia and murdered in Kenya, where many Somali Christians must live with the ongoing prospect of an attack from Somali Muslims. Even if they succeed in avoiding violence for years, they might go out for water one evening, and then the attack finally comes. Or they might fall victim to a home invasion, among other violations.

Somalis who are seen outside churches in foreign countries have faced severe consequences. (This type of persecution is not an issue within Somalia, which no longer has any intact church buildings.)

Naomi relates that, even in Europe, Somali Christians have faced physical assault after Somali Muslims spotted them walking out of a church.

“Somalis have a culture of policing one another’s religion and it is the community’s responsibility to enact the punishment if somebody leaves Islam or they even suspect this,” says Naomi. Such punishment includes “harassment, persecution, excommunication and sometimes physical violence,” she relates.

“Many have had their whole family desert them and this also leads to Somali believers being very isolated,” says Naomi, adding, “For their own safety, [Somali Christians] must move away from the Somali expat communities.”

Be it inside or outside Somalia, “Known Somali Christians are not allowed to socialize with Somali Muslims,” says Aweis A. Ali, who adds that, “Many Somali Christians develop mental health issues because of the persecution and isolation.”

Aweis, who has a Ph.D. from Africa Nazarene University in Nairobi, converted to Christianity in 1986, while living in Mogadishu. He is now a pastor and author of books on Somalia and Christianity.

“Many Somali Christians have been killed, kidnapped, assaulted, or put through forced reconversion” in such countries as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti, says Aweis. In Europe and North America, the acts perpetrated against Somali Christians are typically less severe but can still involve “threats, discrimination, beatings and occasional poisoning,” he says.

Aweis, who often visits the U.S., says that “most Somali Muslims in the U.S. can tolerate [his] Christian faith,” but that this first acceptance changes to “intense hostility” when they find out that he has preached to Somali Muslims. “To them, this is an unforgivable sin that deserves the death penalty under Sharia law,” he says.

Despite facing threats against his life and ongoing abuse on social media, Aweis remains undeterred. He says Somalis will continue to become Christian because of “dreams and visions” and the “loving and caring believers who witness to them.”

There are many Somalis, though, who have little use for such ‘dreams and visions.’ Aweis believes that over 90% of Somali Muslims approve of attacks on Somali Christians. He knows all about anti-Christian violence, having served as the co-pastor of a house church in Mogadishu that, due to a series of attacks between 1994 and 1996, saw 12 of its 14 members murdered.

Even if they worship exclusively within their own homes, Somali Christians must face the grim truth that most of their people despise them.

And Ali, the Somali Christian in Uganda, says that, whether they are inside the homeland or half a world away, “It’s always dangerous for Somali Christians to stay around Somali Muslims.”


Alfrescian (Inf)
Africa rule of thumb:

Northern desert area = fucked up
Southern jungle/savannah areas = okay
Geographically close to Arab peninsula = fucked up

If you die die want to go to North Africa, only go to some parts of Egypt and Morocco.