Written by: John Lundy, Jade Alger
Article source: evangelicalfocus.com

Behind closed doors
In Somalia, it’s nearly impossible for Christians to gather for a church service. Instead, they worship in secret.

Open Doors, an organization monitoring persecuted Christians, ranked Somalia as second on its 2024 World Watch List of countries where believers face the highest amount of persecution.

Somalis face strong social pressure to adhere to Sunni Islamic customs. Leaving Islam is considered betrayal, often resulting in violence, says Open Doors.

In recent years, Islamic militants have increased their focus on tracking down Christians, heightening tensions.

In a nation of 17 million people, Somalia’s Christian population is estimated to be only a few hundred. While it remains difficult to reach these believers with biblical nourishment through traditional missions, it is possible to reach them through media.

Radio and digital media are effective avenues for bringing God’s truth to Somali people, but these efforts must be bathed in prayer. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).

TWR (Trans World Radio) broadcasts a total of 189 hours of programming in the Somali language each week, with 2.5 hours accessible at specific times for listeners in Somalia.

These programs, aired from a transmitter in Eswatini, serve as a hidden sanctuary for the few believers within Somalia who listen discreetly.

The spiritual strongholds of darkness that exist are evident in the story of Nala, a Somali who was beaten and locked away after giving her life to Jesus.

Her testimony, recorded by Open Doors, is a testament to God’s faithfulness during the dangers she endured. “One day, I stumbled upon a YouTube channel of Somali followers of Jesus and started chatting with them online,” she recounts. “For the first time ever, I felt peace in my heart. My family suspected nothing… or, so I thought.”

After her family arranged for her to be harassed and beaten, Nala was able to flee the country and she gives God the glory for helping her escape.

Though it is strictly forbidden to evangelize in Somalia, barriers to the gospel are being torn down little by little. TWR broadcasts Women of Hope programs to Somalia and Somali-speaking regions in Ethiopia.

Responding to these programs can be risky, but TWR’s Women of Hope director for Africa knows that many listen behind closed doors.

When a Somali man named Noor Hassam started doubting what he was taught as a child about Islam, he began exploring Christianity and came across TWR’s Somali programs.

“And thank God, I received the Lord in 2003,” he said. “God has come to me through Trans World Radio.” Later, Noor and his wife moved from Somalia to Kenya, where they founded a Christian social media ministry called “New Creation”.

Reach the last: Somalia

Millions of Somalis live outside of their home country, yet spiritual strongholds make it difficult to evangelize this people group. / Unsplash

Reaching the Somali diaspora
Millions of Somalis are distributed across the northeastern part of Africa, known as the “Horn of Africa,” and in the Middle East.

According to a Pew Research summary, the Somali immigrant population in the United States more than doubled between 1990 and 2015.

Though many Somalis flee their home country in hopes of a better future, Joshua Project’s data shows that only 0.03% of the global Somali population are Evangelical.

Ethan Larson, a pseudonym used to protect the integrity of his ministry, has been serving among the Somalis in North America for over seven years.

He explained that “Somalis are trained from an early age to argue with Christians,” especially the Somalis raised in the West. “It seems like there is a stronghold of the enemy over them,” Larson said.

Another man named Enos Changulo also confronted a strong spiritual resistance when he served as a senior producer at TWR Kenya’s station in Garissa, a Kenyan city with a large Somali population. The station, under the name Sifa (“Praise”), quickly attracted a steady following.

As the programs became more popular, members of a fundamentalist sect threatened to burn down the station. Changulo stood firm, determined to continue the broadcasts even if the station was destroyed.

A long conversation between the station’s staff and the sect members followed, and a compromise was made. The station would continue to broadcast Christian content but would also broadcast other programs dealing with topics such as agriculture and business.

To this day, TWR Kenya still broadcasts biblical teaching from the transmitting site in Garissa.

Joshua Project classifies Somalis as “unreached”, meaning that outside assistance is necessary to evangelize this people group.

So, what can we do as Western Christians to reach Somalis for Christ?

A dedicated missionary to the Somalis gave this advice: Just go. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Form meaningful relationships. Be willing to listen.

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Date published: 21/03/2024
Feature image: It’s believed that among the 17 million people in Somalia, only a few hundred adhere to the Christian faith. / Photo: IMB.org

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