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A Special Report by ICC
03/23/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The recent fatal shooting of a father of four by suspected Islamic extremists in the coastal city of Kismayo unmasked the pervasive threat to Christians in the nation, and hurt Somalia’s efforts to improve their human rights record.
Last month, two masked men killed Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year old businessman, teacher and medical consultant. Jimale used to give private lessons on medicine and first aid, blending his teaching with discussions on the Bible and the Koran. He was shot to death in a hit-and-run killing while standing outside his house, near a police station. He is survived by his wife and 4 children, aged 10, 8, 6 and 4.
Jimale, like all Christians in Somalia, was an underground Christian. His teaching is believed to have drawn the attention of the Islamic extremists, Al Shabaab, who began to suspect that he was guilty of “apostasy” and began sending him death threats. Towards the end of 2012, he received warnings on his cellphone, such as: “We have been monitoring your activities” and “You have to stop introducing the children to foreign Christian religion, as well as your close working relation with a foreign organization, otherwise we shall come for your head.”
At the time, Jimale was an employee of an NGO that often worked with Christians and westerners, both considered by extremists to be enemies of the state. After Al Shabaab was ousted from the region by the Somali National Army and the Kenya Defense Forces, Jimale was emboldened to discuss religion with greater freedom and fewer inhibitions. This, along with his constant partnership with “foreigners” and Christians, allegedly led to his murder. His wife is said to be frightened for her own life and the future of her children.
Series of Murders
Somalia has a nearly 100 percent Muslim population and anyone who converts to Christianity is deemed, by extremists, to be guilty of apostasy and deserving of death. Jimale’s murder is the latest in a series of killings of Christians who were suspected of leaving Islam to follow a “foreign religion.”
On Dec. 8, 2012, two gunmen shot a Christian, Mursal Isse Siad, outside his home in Beledweyne. He was a father of five and had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. One of his daughters told Morning Star News that her father was killed “because he failed to attend the mosque for prayers and used to pray at home. He used to share with us about Jesus.” A Muslim resident in the region said, “Siad deserved to die because he was not committed to the Islamic religion.”
On Nov. 16, 2012, after monitoring his movements for six months and accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, extremists publicly beheaded 25-year-old, Farhan Haji Mose, in the coastal city of Barawa. According to Morning Star News, a crowd assembled in the coastal city on a Friday morning to watch the slaughter of Mose. A witness said, “His body was split into two, then carried away, only to be dumped near the beach of Barawa city.” Even Muslim witnesses confirmed that Islamic extremists accused Mose of being a spy and of embracing the “foreign religion of Christianity.”
These killings do more damage than merely the taking of lives. The widows of the victims are left to raise their children without a father and fear for their own safety. The viciousness of the murders cripple the freedom of the people, who are left with the intimidating message that this is what will happen to anyone who leaves Islam to follow the “foreign religion” of Christ.
Sharia Law and the threat to Christians
Al Shabaab rebels have been clear about their mission to rid Somalia of Christianity. Anywhere between 3,000 to 7,000 in number, the insurgents have already killed dozens of Christians in an effort to impose a stricter version of Sharia law in Somalia. Although the transitional government in Mogadishu claims to be moderate, it too has embraced a version of Sharia law that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam. All underground Christians in Somalia, are therefore, facing the “legal threat” of execution, for daring to choose a faith apart from Islam.
Somali’s efforts for change
Historically, Somalia has one of the worst human rights records in the world. But today, noting improvements in the nation, the UN’s Independent Human Rights Expert on Somalia gave the country a vote of confidence. He said, “I’m hopeful because the rule of law and justice are taking root. People can relate to the government. There’s a bright future ahead.”
The Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdi Farah Shirdon said, “We know that the world is watching Somalia closely and we are fine with that. We will take the criticism we receive in this area constructively. We are working towards a position where there are no human rights violations in Somalia and we abide with human rights best international practice. We haven’t yet reached that point, but our direction of travel is entirely positive.”
If Somalia is serious about improving its human rights records, it will have to loosen its commitment to Sharia law, which permits the killing of Christians “according to the law.” Somalia cannot be permitted to operate according to laws that violate the very first right of a human being – the right to life. Although Somalia has promised change, it remains to be seen whether this includes the freedom and safety for Christians to exist as equals with Muslims, sharing the same legal rights and protection. After decades of suffering and conflict, Somalia owes it to itself to pursue such a needed, and basic, vision of civil and religious liberties.