03/21/2012 Somalia (ONN) – Al Shabaab militants attacked Somalia’s presidential palace this week.
The Somali government tried to downplay the violence, describing it as a militant fear tactic. The country is largely considered a failed state and one that is extremely hostile to what it considers outside influence.
Neighboring countries that share Swahili are concerned that the insurgency could spread violence over the borders. It is during this time that Audio Scripture Ministries announces two new projects that could be instrumental to bringing peace to the region.
ASM’s Tom Dudenhofer explains, “Our partners have been able to obtain permission to do an Old Testament recording of Swahili and Somali. These are both significant projects. The Old Testament requires a lot of hard work and good readers.”
Swahili is spoken as a major trade language in Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi, Somalia, and the Comoro Islands. With the two language projects ready to begin, the question is: who will benefit from them?
The Somali Church was driven underground in 1991 when a popular uprising swept out the dictatorial regime of that day. Today, Christians are forced to practice their faith in secret under extremely dangerous conditions.
Given the reputation of the region, there isn’t much available to encourage and ground the believers that do exist. No one is expected to be a Christian in Somalia, so there is no organized church. Muslim converts exist as individual secret believers. It is also possible that there are expatriates who sought refuge elsewhere and left their Bible behind.
Dudenhofer says the diaspora effect also plays a role in creating demand for these projects. “Sometimes we have underestimated the power of the Old Testament to provide the background, the deeper appreciation for all of the promises, for instance, that were fulfilled by Jesus. It’s a tremendous tool and provides a real deepening of discipleship.”
Another problem that crops up is how to distribute the finished product. “Our partners will make the decision about where the recording will be made. After that, it will be the process of lining up the right readers for the project, and we’re pretty confident that will take place, even if it has to take place out of the country.”
The Islamic extremists seek to impose a strict version of Sharia (Islamic law), ridding the country of Christianity. The country’s president, Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed, has embraced a version of Sharia that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam.
The murder of Christians–especially converts from Islam to Christianity–is increasingly common, so why would anyone be interested in hearing the Word of God? Dudenhofer says, “They realize everything around them is broken, and they’re looking for hope. Perhaps this is what God is going to use sometime in the future to open the hearts of more people for His Word.”
Persecution complicates everything. However, “The other side of it is that our partners with Theovision are very good at this. They have been doing this for a long time. They have gone into areas where it was unsafe for anyone to go and have tremendous testimonies about how God has blessed and protected their team.”
Similar distinctives are found in other countries with militant groups fighting to topple the governments. Even while the wave of oppression seems like it would discourage people from seeking out Christians, “Many times after some event like this takes place, or even in the midst of it, people are very hungry for something that gives them stability, for something that gives them hope, and God’s Word does that.”