Somalia is second only to North Korea in the level of danger to its Christian population and a recent series of beheadings and other gruesome public murders of Christians has underscored this fact.
Somalia has for decades been a country plagued by extreme poverty and lawlessness but as al-Shabaab Islamic extremists struggle to exert control of towns outside the control of the weak central government, the level of violence directed toward Christians has increased.
Ironically, Somalia’s constitution officially allows for religious freedom while at the same time establishing Islam as the State religion.
So, it comes as no surprise that the persecution suffered by Christians tells a far different story. Al-Shabaab militiamen and other radicals, spread throughout the country, seize anyone suspected of converting to Christianity and accounts of public beheadings are becoming all too common. In a country where 73% of the population of 11 million live under the already low poverty line and the government maintains only loose control over its territory, little is being done to bring the murderers of these Christians to justice.
Churches have been destroyed and congregations targeted to an extent that Christians are forced to worship in secret throughout the country.
Those who travel to neighboring Kenya, which is 83% Christian, for business or to visit family, often arouse suspicion that they may have been converted while abroad. In most cases suspicion is enough for the Islamic death squads.
On March 4th of 2014, Islamic al-Shabaab radicals in the port town of Barawa in southeastern Somlia learned that two women had returned from Kenya and they suspected the cousins of being Christian.
They seized 41-year-old Sdia Ali Omar and 35-year-old Osman Mohamoud Moge and brought them to the town square.
As witnesses have reported, Mrs. Omar’s two daughters, ages eight and fifteen, were forced to watch as the militants pronounced their sentence, “We know these two people are Christians who recently came back from Kenya; we want to wipe out any underground Christians living inside jihadist areas.
The daughters screamed for villagers to stop the men as their mother and aunt were beheaded, but no one dared to intervene. The girls were taken to safety by a relative for fear that al-Shabaab would watch them and come for them next and they are now both living in hiding. Their case is far from unique.
Witnesses to the murders told journalists that the Islamic militants have spies everywhere. Not strictly observing Friday prayers, as the women claimed they were praying at home, is often reason enough to arouse suspicion.
In October of 2013, gunman in Mogadishu threated to kill a Christian, Abdikhani Hassan, for spreading his faith. They soon after made good on their threat when two men shot Mr. Hassan seven times with pistols near his home after closing his pharmacy for the day. Hassan left behind a pregnant wife and five young children.
A month before that, a woman named Fatuma ISak Elmi was murdered in her own home in the city of Beledweyne in south-central Somalia.
A threatening note from al-Shabaab had been received by her husband only hours before. In June of 2013, also in southern Somalia, terrorists accused Hassan Hurshe of being a Christian.
They brought him to a public place in the town of Jilib and shot him in the head. In February of that year, a 42-year-old father of four named Ahmed Ali Jimale was murdered for his Christian faith just outside the city of Kismayo.
In November of in 2012, the al-Qaida-linked militants of al-Shabaab beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose, a father of four, after accusing him of leaving Islam and being a spy.
The list goes on in a country that is almost entirely Muslim and where the mere suspicion of converting to Christianity can be a death sentence.
Ranking second worst on the recent World Watch List for 2016 published by Open Doors USA, Somalia has become an incredibly dangerous country for Christians.
Now is the time to offer up your prayers for this forgotten community of believers that face life or death decisions over their faith.
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