Christian Persecution In Somalia

Christian Persecution In Somalia

A look into one of the places where Christians are most persecuted.

Of all the problems in the world, one that really stands out is Christian persecution in Somalia. Christians are being killed by al-Shabaab regularly as a result of their religion. On the watch list of Christian persecution, Somalia is second to North Korea, and of the 11.1 million people in Somalia, there are estimated to only be a few hundred Christians. Most of these Christians live in the southern part of Somalia where persecution is the strongest. This persecution is largely due to the political instability that Somalia has faced, and affects not only the Somali Christians’ chances of survival, but also their social and cultural lives as they are being forced to hide their religion from society to blend in with the Islamic society that they are in.

Somalia is a nation steeped in a long tradition of Islam. In 2004, Islam was declared the official religion of Somalia. Although not placing restrictions on other faiths, the government did not recognize the right to freedom of religious belief. Up until 2006, there was generally informal tolerance for the Somalian Christians. There were only a small number of Christians, but they were allowed to worship openly in their churches. Nevertheless, Christian missionaries were not allowed into Somalia in fear of the Christian population rising. Although Islam had been prevalent for a while, it is only recently that Muslim militants have been fighting to impose a more extreme form of Islam onto the nation. In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union gained control in the southern part of Somalia, and in 2009, Sharia law became the official judicial code of Somalia. Since then, Muslim extremists, especially those affiliated with al-Shabaab, have had control over much of Somalia and have been persecuting Christians in Somalia for their beliefs -- often times shooting them to death or beheading them. This includes not only church leaders, but also women and children. Often times the persecutions are public in order to discourage other Somalis from turning to Christianity. They currently have no tolerance for Christianity and will do everything that they can to prevent it from spreading.

Al-Shabaab is an extremist Muslim terrorist group based in Somalia. Founded in 2006, they are estimated to control up to 1,000 fighters. Al-Shabaab means “the youth” in Arabic, and it is made up of a group of young men that aim to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law on Somalia, which includes the killing of the Christians in Somalia for not being Muslim. However, al-Shabaab is not only blamed for attacks on Somali Christians, but also for attacks on international aid workers, journalists, civilian leaders, and African Union peacekeepers. In January 2013, French forces attempted to rescue a French hostage in Somalia, which ended up leaving the soldier dead, and another soldier missing, while also killing 17 Islamist fighters. Although mainly focused on Somalia, al-Shabaab have attacked other parts of Africa. In 2010, they carried out suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital, and they attacked a Nairobi mall in 2013. Their primary aim, however, is to rid Somalia of all Christianity. In 2014 when their leader Ahmed Godane died, they appointed a new leader, Ahmad Umar, whose main goal is to rid Somalia of Christians. Recently the group has been weakened considerably by a sustained African Union military campaign, but they are still considered the principal threat in Somalia against Christians.

Al-Shabaab has been attacking Christians in Somalia at an extremely high rate. They are not only carrying out attacks on individuals, but they have also committed large-scale terrorist acts that have killed many people at a time. In 2013, Abdikhani Hassan, a husband of a pregnant wife and father of five children, was shot to death by two gunmen on his way home from work because he was spreading his faith. In 2013, 67 people were killed at the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall. In 2014, Al Shabaab beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin publicly, declaring to the public that they want to wipe out all the underground Christians in the area. One of the most notable instances of recent terrorism from al-Shabaab was on April 2, 2015, when five gunmen from al-Shabaab stormed into Garissa University College, killing 147 people, and injuring 79 others. A month earlier, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for attacks on the Somali border in which 12 people died. The reason they are persecuting Christians is that they consider Christians to be the enemy of God, and by committing this act of killing, they are pleasing Allah. One major problem is that much of Somalia is illiterate. Of the 216 countries in the world, Somalia ranks 210th in literacy with only 37.8% of their population being literate. As a result, often times the illiterate population will depend upon the rumors they hear. Therefore, when they hear preaching against the ideology of “western imperialists,” the public will often times accept these rumors and believe that Christianity must be wiped out.

Much of the violence has resulted from the instability in Somalia’s government. In April 2009, the Parliament of the Transitional Government announced that it would implement Sharia law as the nation’s official judicial code, in hopes of solidifying the nation. In doing this, abandoning the faith of Islam became punishable by death. A large part of their reasoning for doing this was to gain support from the jihadists, as al-Shabaab had become extremely powerful. They raised tens of millions of dollars from illegal schemes, such as extortion, illegal taxation, and other “fees” and were estimated to have been making up to $100 million a year from these practices. In 2011, a famine was declared in Somali regions, yet al-Shabaab reversed an earlier pledge which would have allowed aid agencies to provide food in the famine-stricken areas. Approximately 258,000 Somalis died from the famine and half of these Somalis who died were less than five years old. This has contributed to the highest mortality rate in the world for children 4 years old and younger. Somalia is in direct violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which the state is supposed to act on the best interest of the children. Somalia is a part of that convention. In September 2012, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was selected as president which finally added some political stability to Somalia after a rough 21 years of extreme instability. The Somali government was not official recognized by the United States until January 2013. Despite having a new leader, the government still believes they must kill those who leave Islam. Somali Christians have no representation in any form of government that could offer protection because they would likely be killed if they tried advocating for Christianity.

Culturally and socially, these laws are extremely difficult on Somali Christians. They are forced to meet secretly in fear of being found out and killed. They also often have to try to act as a Muslim by adhering to their social customs and practices. These customs include the practice of fasting for Ramadan from morning until night and sacrificing lambs or goats. The traditional Islamic culture also involves the separation of men and women in most spheres of lives as well, preferring women to stay at home with the children while the men work. This is unfortunate for women as they do not have much say in the matter. In addition to having to adhere to Muslim customs, the Somali Christians are not allowed to celebrate their own customs. For the first time since 1991, Somalia placed a ban in 2013 on celebrating Christian holidays such as Christmas. If any Somalians were seen celebrating Christmas, they would face severe consequences. The Somali government also went as far as outlawing school bells, since they sound like church bells. One unfortunate example of what can happen when not adhering to these Muslim customs occurred in March 2014, when 41-year-old mother, Sadia-Ali Omar and her 25-year-old cousin were executed after militants from al-Shabaab became suspicious of them for not attended Friday mosque prayers regularly. For the few Christians in Somalia, expressing their religion is not a possibility even though the Bible mandates Christians to spread the Gospel to others. This lack of freedom is a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which claims that all humans have the right to practice their own religion, and that there should not be discrimination among religions. For people to be murdered for practicing their religion beliefs is against the rights we have as human beings.

A growing number of Somali Christians have taken refuge in their neighboring country of Kenya. There are many Christians in Kenya as it is actually the most practiced religion in their nation. In Kenya’s largest city, Nairobi, the number of Christian refugees is growing by the hundreds. The United States has resettled 27,000 Somali refugees from 2008 to 2013. Additionally, the United States has given millions of dollars of aid to Somalia, and recently Barack Obama authorized drone strikes in Somalia to kill many of al-Shabaab’s top commanders. Of the Somali refugees that have fled to the United States, many currently reside in Minnesota.

On November 26, Pope Francis visited Africa, calling it a “continent of hope” He pointed out that Christianity has been spreading in countries such as Uganda and Kenya, despite Uganda having faced the king’s plan to wipe out the followers of Christ. He focused strongly on the needs for land, labor, and lodging in Africa, but he also addressed the Christian and Muslim leaders in Kenya, telling them that they have little choice but to engage in dialogue to guard against the “barbarous” extremist attacks that have occurred recently. He insisted that religion should never be a justification for violence and lamented that “all too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies". He said there needs to be more dialogue on these issues.

Despite Pope Francis’ statement that Africa is a continent of hope and his call to engage in dialogue against the attacks that have recently occurred, there is not enough being done currently to protect the Somali Christians. When they are not allowed to express their beliefs to the government without being killed or to celebrate holidays and customs publicly that are Christian, they are being stripped from their basic human rights from society. As seen in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all humans should have the right to life, liberty, and security of person without discrimination from their religion. By killing Somalis who express their belief in Christianity, they no longer have the right to any of those things. Being forced to hide their beliefs from the country and having to live in fear is not an acceptable way to live. Pope Francis is correct in saying that meaningful dialogue is important to solving this problem, but in the meantime, these Christians are being killed regularly, and a change needs to be come soon.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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48 Of The Best Catholic Mass Songs

Check out this list of some of my favorites!

I love to sing.

But, I am very bad at singing. One thing I love about Mass is that I get to sing as loud and as terrible as I want, and that is a beautiful thing. I've compiled a list of what was originally going to be 10 of my favorite songs to sing at Mass, but as you can see, my list quickly became 5 times longer. Enjoy!

1. "All are Welcome"

A great reminder that we are to love our neighbors, no matter how different we are.

2. "All is Well With My Soul"

A refreshing reminder that God forgives our sins, and we are in good hands.

3."Amazing Grace"

A classic, powerful song that shows just how much grace means to us.

4. "Ave Maria"

A beautiful song honoring the Virgin Mary, a role model for all women.

5. "Be Not Afraid"

A reminder that no matter what we're going through, God is with us through it all.

6. "Blest Are They"

A guide on how to live out the Beatitudes.

7. "Canticle of the Sun"

A joyful tribute to God's Creation.

8. "Center of My Life"

A reminder to put God first, a reminder which is always necessary in this materialistic and egocentric world.

9. "Change Our Hearts"

An uplifting song reminding us that God saves even the most disobedient of his people if they give their hearts to Him.

10. "Christ Be Our Light"

A classic song that reminds us even in our darkest of days, Christ will light the path.

11. "City of God"

A song inspiring the building of God's Kingdom- something we should strive to do as Christians.

12. "Come Back to Me"

A song all about repentance and forgiveness- God is waiting for us with open arms every time we fail him.

13. "Companions on the Journey"

A reminder that we are not alone in our journey to spread the Good News, and we can work together to spread His Word.

14. "Eye Has Not Seen"

A reminder of the joy and happiness that awaits us in Heaven.

15. "Fly Like a Bird"

A comforting song reminding us that we will always be in God's care.

16. "For the Beauty of the Earth"

A song that captures the essence of how wondrous Creation is.

17. "Glory and Praise to Our God"

A song full of thanksgiving and praise to God who showers us with blessings every day.

18. "Go Out Go Out"

One of the favorites at my school- essentially a "pump up" song to go spread the Gospel.

19. "Here I am Lord"

A encouraging song, inspiring us to serve the Lord with all the talents we have.

20. "Here I am to Worship"

One of my all time favorite gathering songs that inspire me to give all the glory to God.

21. "How Can I Keep From Singing"

A reminder that God's works are wondrous and He is deserving of all our praise.

22. "How Great Thou Art"

A classic song inspiring us to look around and see God in everything and everyone.

23. "I Am the Bread of Life"

A comforting song telling us that if we live our lives in Christ, we will be reunited with God when death comes.

24. "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"

A song that tells us Jesus is alive, and He has redeemed us by his death.

25. "I Will Choose Christ"

A song inspiring us to recommit ourselves to Christ each and every day.

26. "In Every Age"

A reminder of the timelessness of God- He has always been there, and He will always be there for us.

27. "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today"

An Easter song which joyfully celebrates the Resurrection and the defeat of death.

28. "Lead Me Lord"

A reminder that if we seek God, He will lead us.

29. "Let There Be Peace On Earth"

Always a song that inspires us to act for justice and peace among all people.

30. "Like a Shepherd"

A reminder that God cares for us as his own because we are his own.

31. "Litany of Saints"

A beautiful song, often sang on Easter, in which we ask the Saints to intercede for us.

32. "Lord of All Hopefulness"

A prayer asking God for the strength to get through the day.

33. "Loving and Forgiving"

A reminder that God is always wanting to forgive us of our wrongdoing and heal our pain.

34. "Only a Shadow"

A reminder that we have seen just a glimpse of the love God has for us, and there is much more in store for us.

35. "On Eagle's Wings"

One of the saddest, yet happiest songs of all time- although we die, we will be raised up and be with Him forever.

36. "Our God is Here"

A reminder of the true presence of God in all things.

37. "Prayer of St. Francis"

A beautiful song that makes the prayer feel even more powerful.

38. "Rain Down"

A reminder of the endless love of God.

39. "Roll Away the Stone"

My favorite Easter song of all time. HE IS RISEN!

40. "Shepherd Me O God"

A popular song serving as a reminder to put our wants aside and follow God's will.

41. "Sing to the Mountains"

A song of thanksgiving to God for the abounding gifts he has bestowed on us.

42. "The Summons"

A great song for those who are discerning their calling.

43. "Ubi Caritas"

A song all about the love of Christ.

44. "Unless a Grain of Wheat"

A reminder that without God we have no life.

44. "We Are Called"

A call to service and justice.

45. "We Are Many Parts"

A reminder that although we are many people, we are all part of the Body of Christ, and we all need to work toward peace together.

46. "You Alone"

A reminder of how although we are undeserving, God still loves us and should be praised.

47. "You Are Mine"

God has called us each by name- He knows YOUR name, and you belong to Him.

48. "Your Grace Is Enough"

A necessary reminder that God IS more than enough for us! We don't need to be consumed with this world because we have HIM, and an eternity of happiness awaits.

Singing, although I am terrible at it, has really improved my prayer life. It could do the same for you!

Cover Image Credit: Allie Daniel

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How Incorporating Organization In My Daily Routine Single-Handedly Changed My Life

And how it can structure yours.


It would be a complete fabrication of the truth if I pretended that my life in any way has been picture perfect. Things are messy, life is messy, and my life becomes an endless cycle of self provoked destruction.

I've had short bursts of motivation as a last expedient to seize control of the downward spiral I have endured. But mostly they have diminished along with any motivation I have left.

None of these short term solutions have yet to salvage my mental, physical, and academic state. SO, as an attempt to overhaul my life, I decided the best way to strive for control, is to organize every aspect of my life.

Yes, this could become unhealthy if I used this tactic as a way to tear myself down or over analyze my accomplishments, or lack thereof. But I try to view my life as something I have a say in while considering that not everything will be perfect or completely satisfy my goals for myself.

To successfully enact this measure, I try to never go into a day unaware of what I must accomplish, what tasks/work I have to attend to, and stocked with a full calendar and set of alarms that prevent me from missing deadlines. Although mildly time-consuming to detail my life in advance, it is greatly beneficially outweighed through the amount of time this tactic saves me.

Recently, I have noticed how much happier I have been, and feel as if my life is back on track and it's future in my hands. This has allowed me to work an upwards of 50 something hours a week, see and manage friends, read and keep up with hobbies, as well as give me peace of mind and time to relax with loved ones.

I am grateful for the role that organization has played in my life and suggest that everyone incorporate some type of underlying structure in their lives, to realize that anything is achievable with proper organizational preparation.

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