Earlier this month in Somalia, yet another Christian was murdered. “Sufia” was killed in Mogadishu by a group of armed men who burst into her home and dragged her outside, shooting at neighbors who tried to rescue her. After killing the young woman, the men fled. Her parents were unharmed, but they are devastated by the loss of their daughter. Police are still searching for the suspects. And though Sufia is gone, we cannot even use her real name out of fear that her attackers will return to kill her family.
Somalia is second only to North Korea as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. Somalis who are discovered to be Christians face almost certain death, not only in their own country but also in the neighboring countries where many Somalis flee as refugees. “In Somalia, they kill you if they just find a piece of literature,” said VOM’s regional director.
The country has suffered from civil war for more than two decades. Ninety-nine percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, and Christians are targeted by all of the factions fighting for control. The most dangerous of these groups is the militant Islamist group known as al-Shabab, which controls much of southern and central Somalia.
Al-Shabab, which means “The Youth” in Arabic, has sworn to rid Somalia of Christians and impose its strict interpretation of Shariah law. In February 2012, al-Shabab leaders announced that the group had joined al-Qaeda.
Somalia’s tiny community of Muslim-background converts to Christianity is estimated at fewer than 200 people, and all are viewed as apostates by the Muslim majority. Every church building in the country has been destroyed during the civil war, so believers meet for fellowship in small home groups. When Christians are discovered by al-Shabab, they are sometimes beheaded on the spot, as occurred with a 17-year-old boy in 2011 in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab agents have also murdered Christians after following them to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya