BACKGROUND: Somalia, located on the eastern horn of Africa, is a deeply divided country that includes two semi-autonomous regions: Somaliland and Puntland. Somaliland, on the Gulf of Aden in the north, is expected to secede and form an independent nation. Somalia has been considered a failed state since 1994, and, because of ongoing violence, more Somalis now live outside the country than inside. Somalia has a “war culture,” as illustrated by the Somali saying: “Somalia and I before the world; my clan before Somalia; my family before my clan; my brother before my family; I before my brother.” Somalis see refusing to fight as a form of weakness. Few people speak Arabic, so they cannot read the Quran. However, many still believe that to be Somali is to be Muslim.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Most Somalis are ardently Muslim.
PERSECUTOR: The al-Shabab terrorist organization and other Islamist groups persecute Christians. Family members also persecute Christians, because they see conversion as betrayal.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN SOMALIA: There are no church buildings in Somalia. It is extremely dangerous to be a Christian there, but the number of secret believers may be larger than we know. Because there is little trust between people, believers do not reveal themselves. Christians, when discovered, are immediately killed by al-Shabab. Christians are more likely to be killed by a family member than to be imprisoned.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are illegal, and there is almost no access to the Scriptures in Somalia. Those found reading or possessing a Bible are killed.
VOM WORK: VOM provides Bibles to Somalis outside Somalia and supports those who carefully and quietly share their faith inside Somalia.