Somalia Facts

Score: 92/ 100
Region: Africa
Persecution Type: Islamic oppression
Persecution Level: Extreme
Population: 15,636,000
Christians: A few hundred, unspecified
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Federal republic
Leader: President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”

Profile of Persecution

Violence 57%
Church Life 98%
National Life 99%
Community Life 99%
Family Life 99%
Private Life 98%

Violence, civil war and extreme persecution

Somalia remains mired in civil war, tribalism and violent Islamic militancy. Conversion to Christianity is regarded as a betrayal of the Somali family and clan. If Somalis are suspected of being converts, family members and clan leaders will harass, intimidate and even kill them. Christians with a Muslim background are regarded as high-value targets by al-Shabab operatives and have often been killed on the spot when discovered.

The violent Islamic terrorist group, al-Shabab, advocates Shariah law as the basis for regulating all aspects of life in Somalia. This group has repeatedly expressed its desire to eradicate Christians from the country. Foreign jihadists are also present in the country, but Islamic oppression is not limited to militants only. Christians also face serious persecution from family, extended family members and the community at large.

In every sphere of life—private, family, community, and national—being exposed as a convert to Christianity means life-threatening danger, often leading to on-the-spot execution. This persecution pattern is exceptional and puts Somalia high up in the category of extreme persecution.

As a result, most Somali Christians keep their faith completely secret. But despite the risks, Somali people are coming to faith in Jesus—some in miraculous ways.

Examples of persecution

Over the last years, the situation appears to have worsened. Islamic militants intensified their hunt for people who are Christian and in a position of leadership. An attempt to reopen a church in Hargeisa, Somaliland, in August 2017 also failed, as the government was forced to shut it down due to pressure from the local Islamic population.

In the 2020 World Watch List reporting period, Christians remained very vulnerable to attacks by Islamic militants. In the interests of security, no examples can currently be published.

Population statistic: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed April 2019).
Number of Christians statistic is an Open Doors estimate.


Pray for Somalia

  • The Somali people are more than 99 percent Muslim and society expects all Somalis to be Muslim. Islam is the state religion. Pray the Lord will continue to build His Church here amid these hostilities.
  • Pray the Somali people in the Horn of Africa turn to God when they go through turmoil. Pray they will have a deep hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God.
  • Open Doors estimates the number of Christians in the country to be in the hundreds. Pray believers are bold to share the gospel.
  • Pray for mature and godly role-models among Somali believers. Pray for growing unity among the different fellowships.

Stories from Somalia

October 13, 2020

‘Whoever dares to spread Christianity …’—police arrest Christians in Somalialand

Arrest of a Christian couple in Somalialand spurs fear among believers in region. Read More


July 28, 2020

Violence and COVID-19 turn African Christians into ‘endangered species’

A lethal combination of attacks and coronavirus food shortages is crippling the church in Nigeria and throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Read More


March 6, 2020

A ‘living death’: How Christian women experience persecution

A new 2020 Open Doors in-depth report focusing on gendered persecution surfaces some disturbing realities for Christian women and girls in the top 50 countries where women are highly persecuted for their decision to follow Jesus. Read More


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