A woman casts her ballot Saturday in Somaliland. More than 1 million had registered to vote, an election official said. (AFP/Getty Images)
Somaliland (MNN) ― Christians may soon experience much more persecution in the republic of Somaliland. Despite the protests of an Islamic group, Somaliland, located in the northwest of Somalia, held presidential elections Saturday.
Though a small clash after the elections resulted in the death of one observer, the polling was peaceful, surrounded by tight security according to CNN.
That elections even took place was a victory over al-Shabaab, an Islamic group from southern Somalia whose leader, Sheik Mukhtar Abdirahman Abu Zubeyr, warned, "Those who take part in those so-called elections will face the consequences," according to AFP. He also called democracy "the devil's principles" in an audio message to local media.
With elections still proceeding with minimal violence, Somaliland hopes this will set them apart from Somalia. Though they declared independence from Somalia in 1991, they have yet to receive international diplomatic recognition, according to the CIA World Factbook.
However, Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs, USA , said they are hoping the recent elections will change this. Nettleton said they are thinking: "We can have free elections; we can have an orderly transition of power. The rest of the world should recognize us, compared to the rest of Somalia which is essentially in chaos and anarchy."
Mired by civil war since the fall of their dictator, Siad Barre, in 1991, CNN reported on Somalia, "In May (2010), the fighting intensified in Mogadishu (the capital city) and displaced more than 270,000 people, causing the number of internally displaced persons to reach 1.5 million people."
Many have fled to Somaliland, where the Christians among them have been met with acceptance. The main concern now is whether or not Somaliland will go the way of Somalia in their treatment of believers.
Speaking of Somalia, Nettleton said, "It's a very dangerous place to be a Christian; it literally means laying down your life if you want to be open about your faith." Just in the last 18 months, nearly 20 Christians have been executed for their faith.Nettleton said, depending on which candidate is elected, the government could change to adopt sharia law and begin treating Christians worse: "At this point, it's a little bit early to tell exactly how it will play out. But the reality is: it is something that we need to be watching. It is something that is going to affect our brothers and sisters, so it needs to be an item on our prayer list, as well."
Pray for the safety of Christians in Somalia and Somaliland and for the hearts of Muslims to be softened. Pray for courage among believers there, especially when they risk their lives to share Christ.
Check out Voice of the Martyrs' Web site to learn more about the persecuted church around the world and how to pray.