Society expects all Somalis to be Muslim; Imams and leaders of al-Shabaab state publicly that there is no room for Christianity.


World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
3 91/100
Leader Population
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed 11.4 million | a few hundred Christians
Main Religion Government
Islam Federal Republic
WWL Rank in 2017 Persecution Level
2 Extreme Persecution

The two main sources of persecution in Somalia are the radical militant group al-Shabaab and the tribal system in the country. Society’s Islamic clan system has a profound impact on how the federal government is structured. Al-Shabaab is also relying on the same clan-based structure to gather intelligence, recruit members and advance its ideology. This group is using this structure to force sheiks and imams to teach jihad or face expulsion or death. This is compounded by the fact that there are networks of organized crime used to fund radical groups like al-Shabaab. Society expects all Somalis to be a Muslim. Imams in mosques and madrasas as well as the leaders of al-Shabaab state publicly that there is no room for Christianity, Christians and churches in Somalia. The country’s Constitution states that Islam is the state religion and the government prohibits any celebration of Christmas.


"We are experiencing horrible things here every day. It appears that I live in hell on earth. I wish I could just stand inside a church and cry out in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."

It seems a simple wish, to stand in a church. But this is completely impossible for this believer in Somalia, where even being suspected of being a Christian can lead to instant execution.

The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has stated publically that it 'wants Somalia free of all Christians', and they are able to persecute Christians with impunity as the state is basically lawless. These militants have intensified their hunt for Christian leaders in the past years. The government in Somalia is barely functional, meaning that the nation is largely governed by a tribal system. Many tribal leaders believe that being Somali means being Muslim, therefore leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of the tribe. Tribal leaders and family members will harass, intimidate and even kill those who decide to leave Islam.

Christians must keep their faith completely secret - even a positive response to a Christian post on social media can have serious consequences. Christians are able to gather together in small underground groups, but must constantly change the locations of their meetings to avoid monitoring by al-Shabaab militants or community leaders.

The only Christian community in the country that is considered for WWL analysis are the Christians with a Muslim background. They are regarded as a high-value target by al-Shabaab operatives and have often been killed on the spot when discovered. The violent non-state actor, al-Shabaab, subscribes to the doctrine of Wahhabism and advocates Sharia law as the basis for regulating all aspects of life in Somalia. Foreign jihadists are also present in the country, but Islamic oppression is not limited to militants only. Christians also face serious persecution from family, extended family members and the community at large. Any conversion to Christianity is regarded as a betrayal of Somali family and clan. As a result, if Somalis are suspected of being converts, family members and clan leaders will harass, intimidate and even kill them. Over the last years, the situation appears to have worsened. Islamic militants intensified their hunt for people who are Christian and in a position of leadership. An attempt to reopen a church in Hargeisa, Somaliland, also failed as the government was forced to shut it down due to pressure from the local Islamic population.

It seems impossible for anyone to come to faith in Somalia - but nothing is impossible with God. An Open Doors partners broadcasts a Christian radio programme into Somalia, and was told this by one believer: "I had been a conservative Muslim and I even used to preach at you, attempting to bring you back to Islam, but now I am a believer and that is because of your programme. I am no longer a Muslim because I received and accepted the gospel after I heard it from you.

"Don't think that I only chose Christianity because of its kindness and gentleness. I chose Christianity because it is the only religion that can provide ultimate salvation from sin and God's judgment through Jesus Christ. Your radio programme's long investment in my life in terms of teaching was not in vain."


  • For Jesus’ followers who cannot meet openly; pray for protection as they meet in secret groups to learn about Him
  • Giving thanks that many Muslims are seeking God; pray that many more will come to Christ
  • That the Lord will build His kingdom in the midst of Islamic and tribal oppression, organized corruption and crime.


  • Pray for those that are suffering by reading the latest prayer requests from persecuted Christians around the world.
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