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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #3

SOMALIA

Country rank

3

Persecution score

92.44

Last year’s rank

3

Region

Africa

Persecution Type

Clan oppression (Very strong), Ethno-religious hostility (Very strong), Islamic oppression (Very strong), Organized corruption and crime (Very strong)

Persecution Level

Extreme

Population

16,105,000

Christians

hundreds (OD estimate%)  According to OD-estimate

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Federal Parliamentary Republic

Leader

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

Open Doors supports Somali believers through:
• Prayer
• Advocacy and awareness
• Discipleship
• Literature
• Community development

ABOUT SOMALIA

What does persecution look like in Somalia?

It is impossible to publicly admit your Christian faith in Somalia, and “church life” is non-existent. Islam is considered a crucial part of Somali identity, and if any Somali is suspected of having converted to Christianity, they are in great danger. Members of their family, clan or community will harass, intimidate or even kill them. Women may be raped and forcibly married.

Christians are also in danger from al-Shabab, a violent group that advocates Shariah (Islamic law) as the basis for regulating all aspects of life. Christians from a Muslim background are considered a “high-value target” by al-Shabab, who have often executed believers on the spot, when discovered.

If a Christian man is killed or abducted, his whole family suffers, as the man will be the breadwinner. The remaining family are often left unprotected and seen as a stain on the community.

How women experience persecution

Young female Christians from a Muslim background are among the most vulnerable in Somalia. It is common for a woman suspected of being a Christian to be raped and humiliated in public, forcibly married to an Islamic militant, or killed. There are no laws that address domestic violence, and almost all Somali women lead prescribed lives with little leeway for personal belief or expression. Forced marriage is often used as a way to coerce or control young women and girls (there is no legal minimum age for marriage). 

How men experience persecution

All Christians from a Muslim background in Somalia face extreme persecution. In Somali culture, they are perceived as leaders who ought to represent the Islamic faith, and are expected to determine the faith of the family. They are treated with particular hostility if they convert, and can be blamed for a female relative’s conversion.

There is more pressure to conform for those suspected of conversion. For instance, they may be deliberately selected to lead the mosque prayers and be expected to grow a beard, marry more than one wife or perform Islamic rituals in public. Christians are also denied their inheritance, and boys are denied education and taken to Islamic rehabilitation centers, where they are forced to join Islamist militias.

What has changed this year?

Somalia remains number three on the World Watch List, as one of the countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. The pressure on Christians remains at an extreme level. Christians in the country risk being killed by Islamic militants, and clan leaders, elders and family members monitor the movements of any suspected Christian convert.

In recent years, the situation appears to have got even worse. Islamic militants have intensified their hunt for Christians, particularly any in a position of leadership.

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

All Christians from a Muslim background are in great danger in Somalia – and everybody is considered to be from a Muslim background. Those living in areas under the control of al-Shabab are particularly vulnerable. 

How can I help Christians in Somalia?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Somalia?

Open Doors supports Somali believers across the Horn of Africa by focusing on discipleship support, literature distribution and community development, as well as broadcasting radio programs into the country. 

Pray

Pray for the families of those who have been murdered for their faith, that they would receive the comfort of their Heavenly Father and be healed from bitterness.

Pray for a strong church to grow among Somali people, relying on Jesus and with a hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God.

Pray for those who are responsible for the killings of Christians to be convicted with the fear of the Lord. 

A PRAYER FOR SOMALIA

Lord, thank You that You are standing by Somali Christians – that however small they are in number, they are loved and cherished by the Almighty. Please encourage those who despair, and bring joy in the face of extraordinary hardship. We also ask that You would convict those who persecute Christians, as You did with the apostle Paul, and show them the truth of the gospel.

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in North Korea, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.