Somalia (ODM/MNN) — Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby confirms that the terrorist group al-Shabaab utilized Somalia’s failed state chaos as an opportunity to grow. A Monday air strike in Somalia by U.S. armed forces targeted the leader of the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab.
The group shifted its approach last year, highlighted when it killed at least 67 people in an attack on a Kenyan shopping mall. Militants have also carried out guerrilla attacks in Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda.
Al-Shabaab wants to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state. It was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government in March 2008. Three years later, Somalia’s problems were exacerbated by the worst drought in six decades, leaving millions on the verge of starvation.
That same year, the Kenyan government ordered a cross-border incursion intended to create a security buffer zone in southern Somalia after attacks on tourist destinations in northern Kenya that it blamed on al-Shabaab. A United Nations report noted that the al-Qaeda affiliate has grown into an economic powerhouse, raising tens of millions of dollars in cash from extortion and illegal taxation.
In 2009, the parliament approved implementation of Shariah law nationwide. The government also banned proselytizing. There is a strong drive to purge Christianity from Somalia altogether, according to Open Doors USA. Christian converts from Islam are estimated at fewer than 200 people. Most Somali Christians are secret believers who worship in house churches, more so now that they’re being targeted by al-Shabaab as well. Ten believers are reported to have been killed by members of al-Shabaab in 2013. There is a high level of fear and mistrust among believers, who have to hide their faith for fear of betrayal.
When Christians are discovered by al-Shabaab, they are sometimes beheaded on the spot, as occurred with a 17-year-old boy in 2011 in Mogadishu. Militant agents have also murdered Christians after following them to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Groups like the Voice of the Martyrs have joined Open Doors in responding to the plight of the Church in Somalia. In 2012, VOM helped evangelists start small businesses so they could support themselves and their families while sharing the gospel. VOM also provides safe houses for persecuted Muslim converts.
*Praise God that, despite the pressures, He has preserved a Christian witness in Somalia.
*Ask God to provide ways for believers to mature in Christ.
*Pray that Christians would have more freedom to worship Jesus.