“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone on account of My name …”
Today in the 21st century, Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark are reality for millions of Christians persecuted for their faith. And for the more than 24 million and 99 percent Muslim Somali people of East Africa, Mark 13:12-13 is certain for any Somali believer who has left Islam to follow Jesus.
Farah*, now 43, is one of the few Somalis who has made the life-threatening choice to follow Jesus. And because of his decision, this Somali believer has lost everything—including his family and community. (For his safety, we can’t disclose his real name or the country where he now lives).
But we can tell you that Farah lives alone in a house that contains hardly anything apart from a few mats, a mattress, a chair and some clothing. When Farah said “yes” to Jesus, he also lost the tribal community Somalis normally enjoy. It is the consequence a Somali believer often faces.
The husband and father has come to expect nothing but enmity from the people in the area where he once lived. But he also knows he is lucky to be alive. For a Somali believer open about their Christian faith, the consequences are swift and often deadly.
From Muslim to Somali Believer–A Longing to Know More of Jesus
As the child of a father who was also the well-known imam in the local mosque, Farah would seem to be an unlikely Christian. But Christ showed Himself to Farah early in his life.
“When I was eight, I heard a voice I couldn’t recognize telling me to follow Him,” Farah shares. “After that, I had a longing to know more about Jesus.”
Looking back, Farah can see how Jesus consistently worked in his life—starting with the foreign Christian family who moved in next to them and introduced him to the Bible. When his regular visits to their home were discovered by his parents, he was forbidden to go back. But Farah was determined.
He began to secretly climb over the fence separating the two houses.
“Later, I came to hate studying the Quran,” Farah remembers. “Instead, I listened to Christian radio programs in Somali. My family said, ‘He has been caught by the evil called Christianity.’
By age 13, Farah had a mature faith that began to surface. At school, he started preaching to friends. He brought three of the 40 children in class to Christ.
That’s when the public persecution began. The school promptly expelled him.
Afterwards, some of Farah’s classmates told his parents he had become a Christian. That’s when the family persecution started. At age 17, he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel.
“At the time, my father announced I had to be killed, but my mother and brothers were against his decision. Instead, I was kept in jail for six months in isolation … Nothing could stop me from preaching the gospel, so the officers said I had to be kept alone.”
The isolation proved to be a tool God used to bring Farah even closer to Him.
“During that time, God spoke to my heart, strengthening me all the time,” he says. “For me, Christianity is like a man walking in the darkness with a light. He brought me the light in this dark place so that I could walk and live rightly.”
Disowned by His Family, Tribe
But the adversity and trials Farah faced in prison and at the hands of his father paled in comparison to the challenges he endured into adulthood.
After finding and marrying a woman who was equally committed to Christ—a true miracle in East Africa—intense persecution broke out against non-Muslims in their region.
In East Africa, Christians like Farah were obvious targets. The intense persecution often forces Somalis into hiding. To escape jail or even death, Farah left the city, trading his home and ministry—everything he had—for seclusion and isolation.
The next trial would be sickness. But God used his failing health to forge new life-giving connections. During that time, Farah first connected with Open Doors team workers who brought him medicine.
Four months after he fled, Farah’s worsening health condition brought him back to the city he had left. By then, authorities were no longer searching for him. But his absence from his family didn’t keep them free from persecution. The separation was harder on them than it was on him, Farah says.
“The community chased them from the house they stayed in,” he says. “They kept asking her why she followed her husband. Police and other people regularly came to our home asking where I was.”
Eventually, Farah’s wife took their five children and moved back to her parents’ home.
Since then, Farah has also been completely abandoned by the community where he lives. People he didn’t know called and insulted him. Attempts to find employment or even odd jobs have been futile. However, Open Doors has helped him start an income-generating venture (specifics can’t be disclosed for security reasons) and continues to support him.
“My entire tribe disregarded me,” Farah says.
Strengthened by Your Prayers
At age 43, Farah has grasped the second part of Mark 13:13.
… but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.”
In an area of the world where following Jesus is a death sentence, Farah is persevering. Today, he attends secret fellowship. He is inspired by Matthew 5:10 (“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness”) and has specific counsel for other new believers who are (or soon will be) in the throes of persecution.
“Always read the Bible and fix your eyes on Jesus,” he says. “Pray fervently and give all your anxiety to God. We must understand that our fate is God Himself. When suffering comes to your life, be persistent.”
Farah notes that throughout Scripture, the imperative “Do not fear” is written 365 times.
Though his decision to follow Jesus—and lead others to Him—has cost him everything, Farah says his soul is strengthened by the prayers and presence of the Body of Christ.
“It’s your prayer that sustains me,” he says. “He uses you to strengthen me. My flesh brothers persecuted me and left me, but my brothers in Christ show me love. In my suffering, I realize there are brothers and sisters who prayed for me, showed concern for me and helped me. This increased my faith.
“May God bless all the people who are praying for and serving persecuted believers like me!”
Farah and his fellow Somali Christians in East Africa desperately need our prayers as they walk through the fires of persecution. Join us and stand with this intricate, delicate phenomenon that is the Somali Body of Christ.
*Name and photos are representative for security reasons.