World Watch List Rank 3
World Watch List Score 92/100
Leader President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
Population 15.6 Million I Hundreds
Main Religion Islam
Government Parliamentary Republic
WWL Rank in 2019 3
Persecution Level Extreme Persecution

There is no safe place in Somalia for Christians. Church life is very restricted and believers have to practice their faith in secret. The Christian community is small and violently attacked on a regular basis.

Almost all Christians in Somalia come from a Muslim background. Their new faith is seen as a betrayal of their Somali family and clan. Both Muslim and community leaders see Christianity as a foreign religion, which threatens to damage the Somali culture. Community and family members harass and intimidate anyone who is even suspected of converting to Christianity. If their conversion is confirmed, new believers are often killed.

Older Christians say that the generation born in the 1990s have become intolerant and some believers “were killed by their children’s children”. The Somali government believes that there are no Somali Christians.


"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.


The cost of following Christ in Somalia

13th May 2020

Found in Podcast

On this episode of World Watch Weekly, we talk about the #3 country on the World Watch List, why it's so difficult to be a Christian…

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