From Muslim to Christian: Finding Life in Kenya

Muhammed Omar as told to David Munyere

Editors Note: Muhammed Omar is a chaplain to the Somali people in Kijabe Hospital, Kenya. He also reaches out to his native Somalians in areas like Eastleigh and the North Eastern province. In Nairobi, about fifteen born again Somalis meet every month for prayer and encouragement. As Muhammed continues to reach the Somalis in Kijabe Hospital, he reports, “More and more are warming up to the gospel of Jesus Christ” and he hopes God will save them and bring them into his kingdom. The following is Muhammed’s testimony, as told to David Munyere.

Muhammed Omar

“You mean you have become a kafiri?” several Somali men asked me. “How would you dare betray us and our religion? We are going to kill you unless you denounce your Christian faith!”

I was born in 1956 and raised in a rich family and clan in the republic of Somalia. My father, an educated Muslim merchant, took me to school in Mogadishu. I spent four years in primary, four years in intermediate and four years in secondary. After my secondary school I went to university for one year where I specialized in physics and mathematics. I got a sponsor and later went to study general science in Russia. Due to poor relations between my country and Russia, I had to go back home. Later I had the chance to study electronics in the City Ann Guilds, Dublin, Ireland. I graduated with a diploma in electronics after three years.

After returning to Mogadishu I got a job with the ministry of posts and telecommunications. I also taught telecommunications at the National Institute for Telecommunication in Mogadishu and was soon promoted to deputy director of the same institute.

Between 1991 and 1992 war broke out in Somalia. In the streets of Mogadishu a wayward bullet penetrated through the door and struck my relative in the head. We had no specialist doctors and our hospitals could not give him the necessary treatment. He became paralyzed for over a year. By God’s grace he later got a medical sponsor through the United Nations (UN). We took him to Nairobi for treatment.

Meeting Christ in Kenya
While in Nairobi I lived with my relatives who had settled in Eastleigh, Nairobi. As a public officer in the Somali government, I planned to go back and continue with my work. Unfortunately, clashes in Somalia became so bad that I feared for my life. I opted to not go back to Somalia and instead settled in Eastleigh. 

I chewed miraa (khat) and drank beer almost every day. My family back in Mogadishu and relatives in Eastleigh assisted me financially. This, plus my savings, gave me a lot of money. I also assisted people in buying such things as spare parts, medicine and so forth on commission basis.

One day, I saw two Somali men from Mogadishu reading a Bible and other Christian literature. “Why are you reading Christian stuff?” I asked them. “We are learning Christian theology,” they replied, “so we can know what they believe.”

“I cannot read Christian stuff,” I told them. “Christians are bad people and Muslims have nothing to do with them. Nevertheless, if you are reading to know how bad Christians are, then that is fine.” From my background I only knew of Catholic Christians. I never trusted them. I thought they worshipped idols or statues in their churches.

One day my two Somali friends asked me to accompany them to the church. Although I feared going, I agreed and entered my first church in Kenya. I wanted to know what Christians believed so I could challenge those I met in my neighborhood.

“Where are the statues?” I asked my two Somali friends. Unlike the church in Somalia, there were no statues.

“Why are the people facing the pulpit?” I asked. “Are they facing Jerusalem?”

Muslims face Mecca when praying. I could not understand why Christians faced the pulpit. Deep within my heart I felt guilty and uneasy. “Let’s get out of here,” I told my two Somali friends.

“Let’s stay on and learn how the kafiri worship,” they encouraged me. They handed me a Bible, but I was reluctant to open it. I considered going to church as a big sin and believed that opening the Bible would make me lose my sight. Nevertheless, my two friends had not lost their eyesight so I decided to open the Bible.

After the church fellowship I asked my friends many questions concerning Christianity. They were well-versed with the scriptures and began comparing and contrasting the teachings of the Bible with those of the Qur’an. Their encouragement made me want to learn more about the Bible and to visit the church again. Other Christians came and talked to me. They were very friendly. I expected them to start arguing with me about religion, but they were calm and quite understanding. They did not attack the Muslim faith. I realized my attitude toward Christians was very wrong. I had thought alcohol, prostitution and all sorts of evils were highly practiced by Christians. I soon realized my two Somali friends were also Christians and did not do these things. They started to witness to me.

As I continued to learn the Christian faith and the Bible, I asked myself many questions. In Islam there is no assurance of salvation. Every child born by Muslim parents is automatically a Muslim. Muslims believe there are two angels, each standing above a person’s shoulders. Every day they record a person’s deeds. One angel records the good deeds; the other records the evil deeds. When a person dies, he or she faces the judgment. His or her deeds are put on a balance. If the good deeds override the bad deeds that person goes to heaven. If not, the person goes to hell. Sometimes, when a dead person is in a bad mood and meets the angel, the angel can refuse entrance to heaven. This teaching tormented me day and night. It made my life hopeless and uncertain.

When I thought about Somalia I wondered why my fellow Muslims were fighting and killing each other. I could not understand why there was trouble all over. In my search I found the answer in the Bible. We are sinners by nature. Although Muslims believe in the fall of humanity, we have no one to pay our penalty.

John 3:16 convicted me of my sins and in December 1997 I repented and asked the Lord to be my Savior for the rest of my life. Later I shared my desire to be baptized with my Somali Christian friends. I was soon baptized.

Attacked and Disowned
Yet I had problems leaving my sinful ways. I struggled to stop chewing miraa and drinking beer. There were also other things. Doubt reigned in my heart. I feared rejection from my Muslim relatives. I talked with my fellow non-Christian Somalis and told them about my conversion to Christianity. They became mad at me and some threatened to kill me. They asked me many questions I could not answer, for I did not know the Bible well at that point.

One day several Somalis attacked me as I entered my house. They hit me in the back of my neck and slashed the top of my face with a panga. Blood oozed out of my face and I had to get first aid. I shared this horrible experience with my pastor. He empathized with me and feared for my life. He advised me not to go back to Eastleigh and insisted I stay in the church compound. Later I joined a Bible school and pursued pastoral training.

I went to Kakuma refugee camp where two other Somalis and I registered as refugees. We stayed at an evangelical church in Ethiopia for a year. We soon started Bible studies.

Kakuma Somalis were very hostile to our message. Problems started when they attacked one of my Christian Somali friends. They stabbed him and we had to take him to hospital. 

We came back to Kenya and shared our situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They allowed us to stay in Nairobi. The Lord put a burden in my heart to preach to my fellow Somalis in Eastleigh. I organized a peace meeting with a missionary who had worked with the Somalis for years.

My decision to become a Christian did not please my parents, relatives and clan. My father disowned me while my clan vowed to kill me.

Strong in the Lord
It is now about ten years since I became a Christian. In spite of the challenges from my clan, I have found joy, strength and identity in the Lord Jesus Christ. I praise God, for he has also given me new parents and new brothers and sisters in the Lord. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Between 1991 and 2005, over fifteen Somali Christians have been killed, but God has protected me to be a witness to the gospel of Christ Jesus to the Muslim community. I still love my parents and relatives dearly and long to have fellowship with them. I tirelessly pray and long to see them in the kingdom of God.

Ministry in Action at Kenya’s Kijabe Hospital
By Muhammed Omar

Back to the Gospel
The last two decades have witnessed an incredible surge in missionary activity. Fifty years ago, Christians the world over were challenged to go to more difficult places like Somalia. Then the war started in 1991 and now with still no central government, many Somalis had scattered all over the world, mainly to Kenya. Today, we do not need to go to Somalia to reach Somalis. I thank the Lord that they come for treatment to Kenya’s Kijabe Hospital where I work as a volunteer chaplain.

In order to reach Somalis we have to understand their beliefs, their practice and their culture. By doing this we can reach them one by one for Christ. However, in order to do this we must ask ourselves why it is that a good percentage of the world is still unreached today when the Church boasts of immense power both in human and materials resources. We must examine ourselves and see where we are lagging or have fallen. Let us repent and ask our Lord to help us. When I think of the Somalis who I treat who are not Christians, I remember that the great gap is not between the Somali’s belief and Christianity; rather, it is between God and humanity.

Chaplain Care
My work as chaplain is to:

(1) show love,

(2) ask who told the person about this hospital,

(3) inquire as to what sickness made the person come all the way from Somalia,

(4) ask if the person is getting the right service and

(5) seek help in translation for the person if they do not speak the local language.

Whenever possible, I also share scripture. Often I will share the story of creation. I will highlight the wisdom of God in the process of creation, talk about how sin entered the world and show the picture of Christ and the need for the second Adam. I will talk about the story of Cain and Abel and tell how we are all sinners by nature. I will also touch upon the story of Noah and the details of the flood. I also ask questions such as, “We all agree there is death, heaven and hell. What is your hope if you die today?”

My work is to reach out to patients. I also take part in preaching during the Wednesday devotional time. The doctors, nurses, staff and I work as a team to encourage one another. We are all servants of God with different gifts.

There are many who are serving alongside me and who have encouraged me in my ministry here at the hospital. Pray that the Lord may keep and use us. Pray for support for the needs of translating English tracts into Somali, as well as other needs for the JESUS Film, cassettes and training materials.

The Somalis are 0.05% of the total population in Kenya. Pray we grow in number. We also need your encouragement so that we grow in faith, increase in love for one another, attract hungry souls, lead people to salvation and stand firm in persecutions and trials. We have hope beyond the grave. Let our mission be to reach Somalis through preaching and teaching of the word of God.  

Muhammed Omar was born and raised in Mogadishu, Somalia. He holds a diploma in electronics. Omar is currently reaching the Somali with the gospel of Jesus Christ in Kenya.

David Munyere is a pastor, assistant editor and counselor in Kijabe, Kenya.