Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 521 | Wed 18 Mar 2009
Since Ethiopia withdrew its forces in January 2009, virtually all southern Somalia has fallen under the control of a Taliban-style, al- Qaeda-backed Islamic fundamentalist group called al-Shabaab. Unappeased by the new Islamist-dominated government's imposition of Sharia Law, they are presently fighting for control of the capital, Mogadishu. The population of Somalia (including self-declared independent Somaliland and semi-autonomous Puntland) is estimated at around eleven million. Further to this an estimated six million ethnic Somalis -- migrants and refugees -- live across the borders in North Eastern Kenya, eastern Ethiopia (the Ogaden), Djibouti and Yemen. A further million live in the West, particularly in the UK, Scandinavia and North America.
Lawlessness, repression and conflict have driven southern Somalia's Christian remnant 'underground' and into exile. Multitudes of southern Somalis have fled across the southern border into Kenya. Whilst the secular constitution of Kenya guarantees religious liberty, Christians in the Muslim-dominated and fundamentalist-infiltrated region of North Eastern Kenya are suffering escalating persecution at the hands of the growing Muslim majority. The Kenyan town of Garissa lies about 300km west of the al-Shabaab stronghold of Kismayo. Compass Direct (CD) has reported that in June 2007 Muslims in Garissa built a mosque right beside the established 400-strong Redeemed Gospel Church. In September 2008, when news leaked that Muslims were planning to destroy the church, the local administration recommended that the Christians temporarily re-locate. They refused, and that weekend some 50 Muslim youths invaded the Sunday morning worship service, attacked the believers and destroyed the property.
According to CD, Kenyan police 'keep the peace' by barring the Christians from returning to the site. CD reports that today, six months after their church was destroyed, the disillusioned and shrinking membership of the Redeemed Gospel Church worships outdoors, exposed to the elements. Local government will not let the Christians rebuild their church on the grounds that it would upset the Muslims and threaten the peace. But this appeasement and impunity only emboldens intolerant Islamic fundamentalists, increasing the likelihood of more frequent and more serious persecution. Sources have subsequently reported that Muslims are threatening to destroy all Garissa's churches which serve some 2000 believers across 15 denominations. If this is not addressed, then the Kenyan government could lose control of the area. (For maps see http://www.kenya-advisor.com/kenya-map.html )
Across the border in southern Somalia, al-Shabaab is known to be operating military training camps. Local and foreign Muslims (including disaffected Somali diaspora youths with foreign passports) are equipped there with ideology and methodology for local, regional and international Islamic jihad and terrorism. The establishment of southern Somalia as a terror sanctuary greatly increases the likelihood of Islamic jihad in eastern Ethiopia and North Eastern Kenya, as well as Islamic terrorism in the West. Religious liberty is already in retreat in North Eastern Kenya.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR --
* Christians in Garissa, North Eastern Kenya, that they will support, pray and care for each other and that God will empower their witness and bring many Muslims to Christ. 'They will do these things [persecute you] because they have not known the Father, nor me.' (John 16:3 ESV)
* God to fill the Kenyan Church with a great love for their persecuted brethren in North Eastern Kenya, that they may commit to praying, advocating for and practically assisting them. 'By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.' (John 13:35 ESV)
* God to confound the wicked in southern Somalia, cutting all their supply lines and frustrating all their plans. (Psalm 146:9)
* the Holy Spirit to 'blow' like wind through the Somali diaspora -- mostly in free 'Christian' countries or in camps (such as in Yemen) where they have access to Christian aid workers -- so that multitudes of ethnic Somalis may be 'born of the Spirit'. (John 3:5-8)
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
SOMALIA, KENYA AND THE DISPERSED SOMALIS
When Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia in January 2009, an al- Qaeda-backed militia called al-Shabaab filled the vacuum. This Taliban- style group controls virtually all southern Somalia and is operating military camps where Muslims are trained for local, regional and international jihad. Lawlessness, war and repression has forced multitudes of southern Somalis to flee across the southern border into Kenya. Christians in Garissa in Muslim-dominated North Eastern Kenya are experiencing escalating persecution and the local Kenyan authorities are reluctant to act, preferring to appease the Muslims for the sake of 'peace'. But this emboldens the Muslims and endangers the Church. Please pray for God's intervention in Somalia; for justice in North Eastern Kenya; and for revival amongst the dispersed Somalis.
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray specifically and regularly for religious liberty issues, and in particular to uphold the Church where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.