Somalia (MNN) – On October 14, Somalia experienced the worst terror attack ever to occur on its soil. The government is blaming al-Shabaab for the truck bomb attack in a crowded street in the capital city of Mogadishu that killed at least 300 and injured hundreds of others.
Authorities say the truck was packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives, then was detonated outside a hotel near the foreign ministry.
We spoke with Open Doors USA President David Curry for some context: “Somalia is a highly tribal society. The city of Mogadishu is almost a country unto itself, and it’s really what the government can try to control, which is why they’re trying to do these bombings in the heart of Mogadishu. But the rest of the country is very tribal and led in large part by religious leaders, and al-Shabaab plays an important part in that. So they want to destabilize the government.”
This attack is nothing new. In the past decade, al-Shabaab has carried out more than 360 attacks in Somalia alone. Its second-bloodiest attack was April 2, 2015, when gunmen targeted an early morning prayer meeting at Garissa University College in Kenya. The gunmen took several Christian students hostage but freed most of the Muslim students. They killed 148 people and wounded at least 79.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab holds to a Saudi-inspired Wahhabi branch of Islam, said to be the main source of global terrorism. The group enforces Sharia Law, a strict, literal interpretation of the Koran.
“This is a virulent strain of Wahhabi Islam, and they want to eliminate Christians,” Curry says. “Al-Shabaab has made their call known. It’s not just a political movement. They want to create a caliphate in Somalia, in Kenya, and they will attack and destabilize governments to do so.”
Somalia ranks No. 2 on Open Doors’ World Watch List for countries where it’s most difficult to be a Christian. Even the suspicion of having converted from Islam can result in a rushed public execution.
“For Christians in the West, I think we are so inundated with availability to the Gospel, we don’t count the cost the way these folks do,” Curry says. “But I think it raises yet again just this idea of how important it is that we support persecuted Christians in places like Somalia, the work of the Gospel, and try to advocate and fight for the rights of believers around the world.”
Curry says it’s important that people in West realize that this situation affects them more than they might think. He says, “This is an area that Africa needs to be stable. That’s why the African Union is spending so much time trying to stabilize Mogadishu. So it affects us. It affects us in all manner of ways, when you talk about refugees to Europe and the strain of terrorism, not to mention, of course…the human toll.”
Finally, Curry reminds us to pray.
“Mogadishu in Somalia is a foothold for evil, and I think we just need to be prayerful about what’s going on there and try to find a way to encourage the discussion and openness to the name of Jesus in Somalia, because I think that’s going to be the transforming power. Countries change when they have a spiritual revolution, when the heart of the people has turned, and the heart of the leaders.”
It’s a desperate situation, yet amidst the violence, the Gospel continues to go forth. Open Doors works with local partners on the ground to distribute Bibles and discipleship materials to underground Christians, as well as start community development programs. You can find ways to support its work by clicking here.