Somali Christians Face a Double Threat in Famine
The famine in Somalia has compounded the hardship of Christians in the country. Christians were already forced to leave under extremely difficult situation because of the persecution they face at the hands of radical Islamists. The radicals have killed several Christians simply because of their decision to follow Jesus.
By Jordan Hooker
07/29/2011 Somalia (IRN/USA Radio News)-The Horn of Africa currently faces dire famine and drought conditions. The U.S. State Department reports more than 11.5 million people need emergency assistance in the region. The countries in the most need are Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. Currently, the U.S. is involved in a multi-donor intervention in the region, with the U.S. providing $459 million in relief this fiscal year, according to a July 27th press release from the State Department.
As the situation in Somalia grows worse, the State Department reports the combined daily totals of Somali refugees entering Ethiopia and Kenya reaches rates of 3,200 people. The U.S. government is providing $69 million for refugee assistance in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, the same July 27th State Department Press Release reports.
Lurking in the background of the situation in Somalia is a second threat to Somalia Christians. Jonathan Racho, Regional Manager for Africa for International Christian Concern, told IRN/USA Radio News that the terrorist group al-Shabaab is responsible for the deaths of several Christians in Somalia in the past few years. Racho believes the current famine situation in Somalia will only add to the threat against Christians by al-Shabaab.
WHO IS AL-SHABAAB?
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) lists al-Shabaab on its website as “an Islamic organization that controls much of southern Somalia.” According to the CFR, al-Shabaab has “waged an insurgency against Somalia’s transitional government and its Ethiopian supporters since 2006.” The group was added to the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2008, CFR reports.
Reuters released an article detailing a new U.S. report that says al-Shabaab “has recruited more than 40 Muslim Americans to its battle[in Somalia] and at least 15 have been killed.” The Congressional report comes from the staff of Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, the Chairman of the House Homeland of Representatives Homeland Security Committee.
Representative King’s committee has been holding hearings on concerns over Muslim Americans joining militant groups. During a hearing on al-Shabaab, Rep. King said, “Senior U.S. Counterterror officials have told the committee they are very concerned about individuals they have not indentified who have fallen with al-Shabaab during trips to Somalia, who could return to the U.S. undetected,” the article from Reuters reports.
PERSECUTION AGAINST CHRISTIANS
In an interview with IRN/USA Radio News, Jonathan Racho of International Christian Concern said that al-Shabaab not only poses a terrorist threat to the region, but also a threat to Somali Christians. ICC reports that al-Shabaab is seeking to establish Sharia law in Somalia. If successful, the threat level to the church in Somalia would greatly increase, as Christians would be considered to be committing treason against the Islamic state.
In 2010, al-Shabaab was responsible for the deaths of around a dozen Christians. On January 7, 2011 a Somali mother who converted from Islam to Christianity was killed by al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab also killed a Christian convert from Islam in Mogadishu on January 26, 2011.
With the continued threat of death from famine, Somali Christians face a second threat from al-Shabaab. International Christian Concern has been following the situation. More information on the persecuted church in Somalia and throughout the world can be found at International Christian Concern’s website persecution.org.