Somalia (MNN) — Today begins another worrisome week in one of the world’s most volatile nations. The Islamic State gained its first foothold in Somalia last week, and an al-Shabaab takeover seems imminent following Ethiopia’s troop withdrawal.
Will these obstacles be too great for Somali Christians to overcome?
“These are perilous times,” admits Voice of the Martyrs, Canada’s Greg Musselman.
“Yet, in the middle of all that, we do hear these many stories of Muslims having visions and dreams of Jesus. They need that, really, in order to stand for their faith.”
Somalia’s growing darkness
The Islamic State achieved one of its major initiatives last week by securing a town in al-Shabaab territory. Al-Shabaab, an Islamic terror group allied with al-Qaeda, is allegedly opposed to IS.
“The Shabaab decided to kill anyone suspected of supporting ISIS,” an al Shabaab defector told The New York Times. “The fighting between them is a struggle over power, not principle.”
According to Reuters, fighters aligned with ISIS walked into Qandala – a small, coastal town in northern Somalia – and flew their flag over the government building. The black flag remained there the following day, though fighters had reportedly withdrawn to nearby caves.
“The militants left town early this morning but they are not far away,” Abdiweli Adan, an elder in a town close to Qandala, told AFP. “Some fishermen saw them staying close by in mountainous enclaves.”
ISIS isn’t the only group of radical Islamic extremists that pose a threat to Somali Christians. Al-Shabaab is reclaiming territory as well, reportedly seizing towns as soon as Ethiopian officials had left them.
Somalia is “one of the most difficult places in the world” for Christians, notes Musselman. In recent weeks, he adds, the terrorists “have been attacking Christian areas along the Kenya and Somali border in retaliation for the Kenyan government saying they were going to ‘stomp out’…al-Shabaab.”
Each year, Open Doors USA puts together the World Watch List: a compilation of the world’s 50 worst places to be a Christian. Somalia is number seven on the list. A description on the website reads in part:
Somalia has been on the World Watch List since 1993, and almost always among the top ten countries…Since the downfall of Ziad Barre in 1991, Somalia has become a safe haven for Islamic radicalism. Life for Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) is much more difficult compared to other countries known for persecuting Christians.
As the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) approaches, will you join us in prayer for believers in Somalia?
Lord, thank you for this time that we can come before Your throne and remember our brothers and sisters who are suffering all over the world. We know that, for us who live in the West – in Canada, in America – we don’t face the kind of difficulties that Christians do in eastern Africa; we think especially of Somalia.
We pray for the believers who, in many cases, have to be so secretive and careful, or they’ll be killed. We pray for them, as in many cases, they’re the only Christian in their family. Even for their family members to find out could lead to death or great harm and torture, or ostracism from the family. We want to lift them up to You, Lord.
We pray for the small but growing Church in Somalia – that You would be with them, and strengthen them. Also, we pray for ministries like The Voice of the Martyrs and others that are broadcasting the Gospel into Somalia and trying to get, covertly, Christian materials into the country. We just pray that the Gospel would be received; and, of course, we pray for those who don’t know You, Lord.
We think of even those who may be part of these radical groups, like al-Shabaab, Lord, that their eyes would be opened to the love of Jesus. And, that You would draw many to Yourself. The reason we care is because of what the Bible says, that if one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. So, be with our brothers and sisters in Somalia, and throughout eastern Africa, that many would come to know You. And, strengthen the faith our brothers and sisters there have.
We pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.