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May 30, 2017

Wilberforce A!ert: Hope Amid Crisis in Somalia

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.

Abdullahi and his wife Hani had a full and happy life with their nine children. About 12 months ago, Hani’s family learned that she and the children had decided to follow Abdullahi’s Christian faith. The most heartbreaking moment of his life came at the hands of Somalia’s close-knit clan structure. Hani’s family arrived and stole her and the nine children, and for almost a year have isolated them from outside contact. A dark cloud of pain was evident as Abdullahi shared his gut wrenching story.

Yet with a 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 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 majority Shia Muslims, Christians face tremendous pressure, societal resistance and outright fear. As USCIRF reports, “Although conversion is currently legal in Somalia, it is not accepted socially.” Open Doors rank Somalia second behind only North Korea as the most difficult place in the world to be a Christian, with reports from earlier this year of Christian converts being beheaded.

Christians are not the only ones suffering in what might be the most violent and failed state in Africa. This year, Freedom House gave Somalia the lowest possible grade for political rights and civil liberties, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum ranks Somalia twelfth in the world as most likely to experience state-led mass killings. These challenges are spurring a large exodus with roughly one million – or ten percent of the population – fleeing, and another ten percent internally displaced.

In recent weeks, the New York Times reports the specter of famine stalks this beautiful country. So far this year, roughly half of all livestock have died in affected areas and the number of malnourished children has increased 50 percent to 1.4 million.

There are little prospects for significant improvement in the short-term. As detailed above, Christians are far from the only ones suffering, but in a country where the provisional constitution declares,  “No religion other than Islam can be propagated,” they are particularly vulnerable.

Earlier this month, I was in Somalia as part of a 21CWI opportunity to meet with and learn from secret believers. Men and women alike described famine at the edges, family abandonment, being followed by authorities, and the challenge of restricted communal worship. But they also described something else: hope and determination.

As Abdullahi himself concluded, “Do not pray for an end to the persecution, because without it we would die. But pray that the Lord will give us the courage to stand through it.” Perhaps we should also add a prayer that all those suffering will live to see a brighter tomorrow.

*Name changed to protect identity

Elijah Brown, Executive Vice President

 

Take Action:

1. Post this video prayer to social media.

2. Read Aid to the Church in Need’s in-depth report on religious freedom in Somalia. 

3. Let Congress know the budget under discussion must include monetary support for famine relief in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, where 20 million people face declared famines.

4. Give. One mother we interviewed who had been abandoned by her family carefully asked if we could help cover tuition costs so that her six children could go to school. For $600 a semester you could help all six persecuted children receive an education.  Write “Somalia mother” in the comments when you do.

Category: Africa
Region: Africa
Keywords: Somalia,Somalia famine,famine,Christian persecution,21st Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Wilberforce,21CWI

Elijah Brown

Elijah Brown, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. Brown received his Ph.D. in Divinity from the University of Edinburgh. He was an Associate Professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University, where he also served as the founding Director of the Freedom Center. In 2007, Brown was named one of 35 global emerging leaders by the Baptist World Alliance, a network representing 40 million Baptists worldwide.

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The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is empowering a global movement to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, capacity building and technology.