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Published on 12 August, 2010

Somali militant group bans Christian aid groups

Somalia (MNN) — Islamist group al-Shabaab has banned three
aid groups from carrying out relief work in Somalia.

The militants, with ties to al-Qaeda, accused World Vision,
Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and the Swedish aid agency
Diakonia of spreading Christianity and ordered them to stop aid work
immediately.

In a statement released on August 9, the group said,
"Acting as missionaries under the guise of humanitarian work, the
organizations have been spreading their corrupted ideologies in order to taint
the pure creed of the Muslims in Somalia."

However, Todd Nettleton, spokesman with persecution watchdog
Voice of the Martyrs USA says, "All three of these groups had signed on to the
Red Cross stipulations for how aid is given. Those regulations say that you
cannot give aid based on religious affiliation or use aid as an enticement."   

The proselytism accusation is not uncommon. In this case, Nettleton says it is merely a front
for their real agenda. "Al-Shabaab has
specifically hunted Christians. They have gone into areas where Christians are
known to be, where foreign Christians have had a presence previously, and they
have sought to find all of the Christians and either kill them or force them
out of the area."

Government and church officials, aid
beneficiaries, and humanitarian workers throughout the region have condemned the
ban.   

Al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam continue
to wage war against government troops in Mogadishu, displacing hundreds of
thousands of people. These aid
groups are standing in the gap between thousands and starvation.   

Though Christian in vision, the three groups in question keep the Red Cross code of
conduct. Nettleton says, "They want to
feed the hungry, help the sick, educate the uneducated. Are they motivated by
their love of Christ? Absolutely. They
want to be His hands and feet in these countries, but the idea that they're
holding out a hot bowl of soup out in front of people and saying, ‘Do you want
to become a Christian so you can eat this bowl of soup?' That's completely
false."

At this point, World Vision has temporarily suspended
operations. In a statement Monday,
they said, "World Vision guards were disarmed, and their keys were taken.
Nothing was removed from the offices although Al-Shabaab representatives
occupied the offices."

Whether or not this move is the harbinger of more violence
to come is unknown. However, the ongoing
instability prompted the United Nations to boost its civilian presence in the
hopes it could help advance the peace process.

Nettleton says there's only one sure way to peace. "One of the biggest prayer requests is just
safety and the protection of our brothers and sisters who are there. Pray for a return to some kind of order and
functioning government. We can pray for
the radical Muslims to come to know Christ."

Pray for encouragement and strength for the Christians
remaining in Somalia as well as for those who have been forced to leave their
homes. There are other details here.

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