Does the Rebirth of Somalia Mean Freedom for Christians?
Last year, the people of Somalia elected their first President after more than 20 years without a central government. The land had been infested with piracy, starvation, violence and death in the two decades leading up to this change. Many members of the international community rejoice with this positive change, but are unsure of what the future holds for Somalia. The following is an article about Christians in the “new” Somalia. In 2012, Somalia held its first democratic elections after almost two decades of violence, corruption and chaos. Now the international community has come out in support of the attempts to rebuild the country. The Unites States led this support for stability and reintegration into the global community by officially recognizing the Somali Federation Government for the first time since 1991 on January 17. When the UK and Somali co-hosted the Somalia Conference at Lancaster House on May 7, it was an even more significant step towards stability and reintegration into the international community. More than 50 friends and partners of Somalia attended. “At the Conference, the international community came together to agree on practical measures to support the Federal Government’s plans in three key areas security, justice and public financial management… We welcomed the protection of fundamental rights in the constitution, and the Federal Government’s commitment to uphold human rights, including by establishing an independent National Human Rights Commission,” a UK government Press Release stated on May 7. But despite all these positive moves towards the restoration of their nation, and despite the international community’s praise for the Somali government’s promises to protect and uphold fundamental human rights in Article 3 of the Constitution , Christians in Somalia still do not have much to celebrate. They remain hidden and in grave danger from extremists. Sadly the yet to be completed and ratified Constitution also states:
- “Islam shall be the religion of the State.”
- “Every person shall have the right to freedom of conscience and freely to profess his own religion and to worship it subject to any limitations which may be prescribed by law for the purpose of safeguarding morals, public health or order. However, it shall not be permissible to spread or propagandize any religion other than the religion of Islam.”
- “The doctrine of Islam shall be the main source of the laws of the State.”
And so in the Somali Federation, Christians remain marginalized, threatened and criminalized. However, there is a glimmer of hope… There has been an increase in Somali nationals returning home from exile as the nation slowly regains stability. Among these returnees are a generation born, bred and schooled in western countries. Many have thrived in their various nations of exile, displaying great entrepreneurship and various talents and education. “We are praying that living in cosmopolitan cities around the world opened their minds and transformed their worldviews. They will have seen the benefits of living in freer societies that follow the rule of law, and they will have enjoyed freedom of religion, freedom of associations, freedom to live their lives as they see fit without interference. We are also praying that these returnees will be more religiously tolerant without easily giving in to the strict sharia laws extremists are advocating for. We pray that in the long run this will come to mean that non-Muslims, including Somali Christians, will see societal acceptance in the near future,” commented Open Doors’ East African team leader. For now though, threats continue to lurk in the tightly knit communities bound by strong family and clan ties. In these closely monitored family and social set-ups, there are anti-Christian and anti-Jewish extremists. Now is the time to hold President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to the words he spoke during his opening speech at the Somali Conference 2013 when he stated that his government is dedicated to creating a Somalia “at peace with itself and with its neighbors, a Somalia that values kindness, respect and human rights.” He promised that under his leadership, his government was offering the world a legitimate partner that can be trusted. He said that they are hard at work to deliver among other things, rule of law and the justice system. As long as people are not allowed to change their religion, to live out their Christian faith or to speak to others about their faith, assurances of respect for human rights remain mere words on paper. If the hunting down and killing of Christians continues unabated, it means freedom has not yet truly come to Somalia. Prayer points:
- Pray that the plight of Somali Christians will be brought to the attention of and highlighted by the international community as they seek to rebuild the nation.
- Pray for the return of millions of Somalis that have lived, even been born and bred, in exile. Pray that their ‘different’ mindset and open worldviews will bring some tolerance to the society.
- Pray for the establishment of an indigenous strong and impartial civil society and human rights agencies to provide a voice for the voiceless, including Christians as they keep the government in check.
- Pray for the constitutional guaranteed human rights to be respected and equal space be provided for all Somalis to practice their preferred religion.
- Pray that God would grant Christians His Divine favor in the sight of the new and subsequent Somali Federation governments.
- Pray that among the returnees would be thousands of converted Somalis who would add to the numbers of their brethren. Pray that they will be able to actively yet wisely engage with their government on allowing them freedom to practice their Christian faith within Somalia.
- Pray that the Lord will bring many Somalis to faith in Him.
- Pray for the generation of Somali youth born just before or during the conflict:
- Those that remained in the nation have known no other way of life except violence, revenge and bitterness. This has formed their characters and shaped their worldview.
- Many that fled with their families endured the horrors of famine and starvation, travelling many miles, mostly on foot, encounters with lawless militia that raped and murdered…
- May God redeem them and bring help and healing to their broken hearts.