Somalia: An On-going, Overlooked Crisis

The situation in Somalia is probably the most overlooked, under-reported crisis in the world. The country has been devastated by civil war, famine, drought, floods, assassinations, and suicide bombings. There are one million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and 1.7 million people in need of food. United Nations officials who work in Somalia have stated that the country has higher malnutrition rates, more bloodshed, and fewer aid workers than the Darfur region in Sudan. There are four doctors per 100,000 people, and only twenty-nine percent of the population of 8.4 million has access to safe drinking water.

The conditions for Christians in war-torn Somalia
have continued to deteriorate.

“The situation in Somalia is the worst on the continent of Africa,” Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, a top United Nations official for Somalia, told the New York Times in 2007. Reuters reported in July 2008 that insecurity and attacks in southern Somalia have forced many aid groups to scale down or halt humanitarian operations “to cope with one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.” Pirate attacks on unescorted ships have been a growing problem in Somalia. According to the International Maritime Bureau, three European freighters were hijacked off the Horn of Africa in June 2008, adding to the twenty-seven other reported attacks this year. Some of those pirated ships contained humanitarian aid for Somalia.

Somalia is the only country in the world which has been without a government for the last seventeen years. Warlords continue to control parts of the country. In 2007, thousands of civilians in Mogadishu were killed or wounded. Somalia has no constitution or any legal provision for the protection of religious freedom.

Christianity in a War-torn Country
Somalia is 99.96 percent Muslim, with just four to five thousand Christians. The conditions for Christians and others in war-torn Somalia have continued to deteriorate. Currently, there are pockets of believers living under extremely dangerous conditions. Some converts to Christ from Islam have lost their lives shortly after coming to faith. Somalia is ranked number twelve on Open Doors’ World Watch List of fifty countries where Christians face the most severe persecution.

The biggest hardship for any Somali believer is to
be an outcast from his or her family and society.

At least six Christians were killed for their faith in Somalia in 2006. Most of them had an Islamic background and were killed after their Muslim Background Believer status was revealed. An Italian nun was killed in September 2006, possibly as a result of remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI when quoting a medieval text on violence in Islam. Many Christians have been forced to flee to other countries.

The biggest hardship for any Somali believer is to be an outcast from his or her family and society. To most Somalis, “Christian” describes an alcohol-drinking non-Muslim with an immoral lifestyle. Somali society can not imagine a Christian believer to be a God-fearing person. Therefore, having a family member converted to Christianity brings great shame to the entire family.

The Perseverance of Faithful Christians
Despite all the difficulties, Christian workers continue to faithfully labor among the Somali people throughout the Horn of Africa. The Lord is doing signs and miracles among the Somali people. He is touching the hearts of Somalis and drawing them to himself.

Prayer Points for Somalia:

  • For the establishment of a stable
    government which allows freedom
    of religion for Christians.
  • That humanitarian relief will get to
    the thousands who need food,
    water, and medical help.
  • That Muslim Background Believers
    will stand strong in their faith,
    despite immense pressure from
    family and friends to return to Islam.
  • That Christians who meet in house
    or cell churches will be kept safe
    and not be discovered by extremists.
  • That those who are preparing the
    translation of the Bible and other
    Christian materials into Af-Maay
    would have diligence, insight,
    and wisdom through the help of
    the Holy Spirit. This will allow for
    God’s truth to be conveyed to a
    significant minority group in Somalia.

Christians gather in house churches to study God’s word, to worship, and to pray for one another. Generally, Somali believers enjoy singing, are gifted in writing poems, and sometimes create songs spontaneously; they worship in their own language, with their own spiritual songs, and in their own style. Somalis are not used to long sermons; instead, they like discussions which can become heated because emotions are involved.

Over the past year people around the world have been praying for the transformation of the Somali nation, thanks to a prayer campaign launched by Open Doors. Looking at the country and its people, some might think that there is no hope for this nation. However, the Lord, through the prayers of his people, can make the impossible happen.

Over the past few months several Open Doors partners have written to tell us of Somalis who have come to Christ. Other reports tell of Somalis growing firm in the faith, despite the difficult circumstances they are facing.

In reading these reports I am moved by the fact that just like all of God’s children, these believers learn to walk with him while they are feeling strong, but also when they are going through doubt and pain and the valley of the shadow of death.

While some are feeling despondent, others have hope that God will restore their nation and bring the stability that is such a distant dream.

One Somali brother wrote, “My many difficulties make me love God, who has become my protection. When I witness about my faith, I feel a power that goes with me and keeps me from falling. I feel different and I’m not the person I was before. After I found a Bible written in Somali, and an English one, I found healing in many ways. I know that my changing situation will stabilize one day.”

You can join thousands of Christians globally who are praying for God’s intervention in Somalia. To participate in the prayer campaign for Somalia, go to: or:

Please also lift up Somalia in prayer during the annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Sunday, 9 November 2008.

Dr. Carl Moeller is president/CEO of Open Doors USA. Open Doors is an international ministry which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians for fifty years. Moeller formerly ministered with Campus Crusade for Christ and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, USA.