How many Christians are there in Somalia?
It is very hard to know how many people in Somalia are Christian, from the population of 16.6 million, because of the extreme secrecy they are forced to live in. It is estimated that there are only a few hundred Christians.
How are Christians persecuted in Somalia?
Violent attacks by Islamic militants, targeting Christians, remain common in Somalia and have been for more than 25 years. Groups like al-Shabaab operate with seemingly little pushback and control large parts of Somali territory, and they consider Christians ‘high-value’ targets for killing.
The small number of believers in Somalia are largely Christians who have converted from Islam. This conversion is seen as a betrayal to family and community, and even someone suspected of conversion is likely to face harassment, intimidation or even murder. If their conversion is suspected, Christian men are also denied their inheritance, and boys are denied education.
Young female converts to Christianity remain one of the most vulnerable populations in Somalia. It is common for a Somali woman suspected of being a Christian to be raped and humiliated in public, kept under strict house arrest, abducted, forcibly married to a radical sheikh or even killed.
If she's already married, she will likely be divorced and have her children taken away. If a Christian woman’s husband is killed, she is likely to be forced to marry a Muslim man and lose her property; she is left at the mercy of the new husband's family. Many widows are taken advantage of by male relatives and their young daughters married off.
“Jesus had changed me. I realised that I didn’t choose Him, but He chose me.”Nala, a Somali Christian who fled the country
What’s life like for Christians in Somalia?
When Nala* heard about Jesus online, from Somali converts living abroad, she was initially shocked. But she kept exploring: “I started to look for more videos and found others who shared the Word of God,” says Nala. “I connected with them through Facebook and asked them to tell me about Christ. One girl, Hani*, shared with me some things from God’s Word.”
After a while, she chose to follow Jesus! She met with other secret believers and was eventually baptised. She had to keep her faith secret from her Muslim family, of course, because she knew how furious they’d be. They might even kill her.
Unfortunately, while Nala was exploring her new faith, her family became increasingly suspicious and tricked Nala into coming home by telling her that her mother was dying. “When I got home, the men in my family were waiting for me,” Nala says. “They beat me and took my mobile phone and locked me up in a room.”
The following days and weeks were torturous. “They tried different rituals to fix what was ‘wrong’ with me. Sometimes they put a lightbulb against my head and repeated words from the Quran over and over… They even tried some concoctions on me.”
Her family then pledged her in marriage to a sheikh who already had two wives. But a few days before the wedding, Nala ran away and hid with friends, who helped her to escape the country. Her life has changed completely and she lives in danger, but does not regret choosing to follow Jesus.
“Jesus had changed me. I realised that I didn’t choose Him, but He chose me. I didn’t go out looking for Him, but He found me. Previously I didn’t have happiness, but now I have joy… I know that until I came to know Jesus, I knew nothing at all.”
*Names changed for security reasons
How can I help Somali Christians?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters from Somalia. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors partners support Somali believers across the Horn of Africa with discipleship and equipping them to cope with severe persecution.
Lord, we come to You in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Somalia. You know they are constantly in danger because they follow You; we ask they would feel Your Holy Spirit working in and through them, that they would be able to persevere and build Your Church. We pray especially for the secret Christians who feel alone – give them a supernatural sense of belonging to the worldwide Body of Christ. We pray all these things in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.