The Islamist terrorist group al Shabab is intentionally starving Somali Christians in territory it controls. It’s just the latest incident in the terror group’s systematic efforts to eradicate all of Somalia’s Christians.
According to the International Christian Concern (ICC), al Shabab’s intentional denial of humanitarian aid has resulted in the deliberate starvation of 18 Christians in the Somali cities of Afgoye, Baidawa, and Kismayo. As ICC spokesman Jonathan Racho said, “Any Somali that is suspected of being a Christian, or a friend of a Christian, does not receive any food aid.”
Unfortunately, the ongoing and purposeful elimination of the small Somali Christian community at the hands of al Shabab has gone largely unrecognized and unreported, eclipsed by the other horrors of rape, torture and murder perpetrated upon most of Somalia’s Muslim population by the Islamist terrorist group.
It goes without saying that al Shabab’s brutality has been well documented, most recently in a report issued by Human Rights Watch, which found the terror group continuing to carry out public beheadings and floggings; forced recruitment of children into its forces; and the denial of humanitarian assistance to the 2.2 million starving Somalis in al Shabab-controlled territory.
So, it shouldn’t surprise that al Shabab, which has openly professed its intention to rid Somalia of a Christian presence, is focusing its particular brand of barbarity on Somali Christians. After all, this is the same group that in August 2010 banned three Christian Aid Groups that it stated were “acting as missionaries under the guise of humanitarian work” while at the same time spreading what they termed as “corrupted ideologies in order to taint the pure creed of the Muslims in Somalia.”
Of course, it should be noted that the persecution of Christian Somalis pre-dates the rise of al Shabab. That assault arose from the outset of Somalia’s 1991 civil war and has gone unabated ever since. During that time it is estimated that over a thousand Somali Christian adults have been killed in this overwhelmingly Muslim country, with thousands of others forced to either flee Somalia or deny their faith to save their lives.
While Somalia’s Transnational Federal Government ostensibly grants religious freedom, it is either unable or unwilling to enforce those rights. As such, the enforcement of Islamic law is carried out from area to area and clan to clan, often with brutal consequences. The result has been to reduce the Christian population down to an estimated 1,000 and drive the remaining worshipers underground.
In a disturbing report gathered from Open Doors, a British-based Christian aid organization, Somali Christians gather secretly at pre-arranged meeting places to worship. According to the report, “These believers dare not meet for longer than three hours. Careful not to leave any tracks, they abandon the meeting place separately at intervals…When caught with a Bible, Christians face certain death.”
One of these underground believers said, “We know that anyone suspected of being a Christian will be tortured or even killed. So we pray secretly. We have prayed in mosque prayer rooms but despite our precautions many of our friends have been killed. We now live in fear.” Another Christian said he converted from Islam and told his family who then kept him in a dark room for 13 days without food until his mother begged the father to let him go.
One truly horrifying incident occurred in December 2010, when a 17-year-old girl who converted to Christianity was shot to death by relatives. The young girl had escaped her village after her parents had shackled her to a tree and tortured her for leaving Islam
Yet, while persecution has been the norm for Somali Christians, al Shabab has taken it to a whole new and brutally disturbing level.
In 2008, al Shabab members sliced the head off of Mansuur Mohammed, a 25 year-old convert to Christianity. According to witnesses, the insurgents took a video of the slaughter and circulated it in Somalia purportedly to instill fear among those contemplating conversion from Islam to Christianity.
In July 2009, al Shabab beheaded seven prisoners it accused of abandoning the Muslim faith; in August 2009 four Somali Christian women working for an NGO orphanage were beheaded after refusing to renounce their faith; and in July 2009 a 40-year-old Christian mother of 10 and her 23-year-old daughter, who was six months pregnant at the time, were both raped and held captive for five days before the terrorists left them for dead.
In July 2010, Muhammad Guul Hashim Idiris, a Christian convert from Islam, was taken by al Shabab members to a makeshift soccer stadium, attended by hundreds, and executed. A statement from Sheik Adan Yare, the al Shabab governor of the Bakol region, read: “Our holy warriors have today…executed in front of angry Muslim witnesses a young man who insulted our beloved prophet.”
In September 2010 al Shabab members broke into the home of Osman Abdullah Fataho, an active participant in the underground Christian community, and shot him dead in front of his wife and four children. The terrorists then took Fataho’s children as recruits to be trained as child soldiers in its organization.
In January 2011 insurgents slit the throat of Asha Mberwa, a recent convert to Christianity and mother of four; in March 2011 al Shabab insurgents shot Madobe Abdi to death. Abdi’s alleged crime was not that he was a convert from Islam but rather was an orphan raised as a Christian.
Finally, in May 2011 militants shot and killed Yusuf Ali Nur on suspicion he was a Christian as well as killing 21-year old Christian convert Hassan Adawe Adan, dragging Adan outside and shooting him several times before shouting Allahu Akbar (“God is great”).
Yet, while al Shabab has worked fervently to kill all of Somalia’s Christians, the terror group has other avenues by which it hopes to wipe all vestiges of Christianity’s presence from Somalia.
For example, in April 2010 al Shabab outlawed school teachers using bells to signal the beginning of class because “Christian churches also sound bells.” According to an al Shabab spokesman, Sheik Farah Kalar, “All schools must stop using the bell to summon students; otherwise they will face punishment.”
Most recently, al Shabab instituted a ban on Samosas, a popular Somali food staple, from its territory because the pastry is fried in a triangular shape that looks suspiciously similar to the Christian Holy Trinity symbol.
So, tragically, the news that al Shabab is now using the current famine in Somalia to deliberately kill Somali Christians isn’t very astonishing. Rather, what truly is amazing is that there are still Christians left alive in that ravaged country in which to be killed.