Believers hunker down as Somalia embraces Sharia law
In an attempt to restore some security and stability, new President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed hopes the move will undermine the Islamist guerrillas who have waged an insurgency for the last two years.
During 2008, Islamist insurgents regained control of most of south-central Somalia, except for Mogadishu, from government and Ethiopian forces. The Transitional Government was on the verge of collapse, and the Djibouti-based Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) opposition has negotiated the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in 2009.
The realization of Sharia law is a blow against religious freedom. At number five on the Open Doors World Watch List of the world's worst persecutors of Christians, Carl Moeller with Open Doors says this is an alarming development. "We're very concerned about the nature of the way that this Sharia law is being forced into Somalia as a wedge to get a peace deal and for the condition of the Christians there."
The fighting reportedly led to an increase in hostility toward Christians. "Many people will remember the desperately chaotic situation in Somalia in 1993. The truth of the matter is -- Somalia isn't any better today. And Christians continue to be the most vulnerable segment of that society."
In fact, Open Doors says four Christian teachers, two of them converts from Islam, were murdered by Islamic militants in south-central Somalia. In 2008, their team received reports of at least ten Christians being killed for their faith and several others kidnapped and raped.
Somalia has no constitution or any legal provision for the protection of religious freedom. Islam is the official religion, and social pressure is strong to respect Islamic tradition, especially in certain rural parts of the country. Most regions make use of local forms of conflict resolution, either secular, traditional clan-based arbitration, or Islamic (Sharia) law.
However, there is a remnant church that needs your prayer. Moeller says, "We are providing, through means that I'm not at liberty to say, some material supplies and spiritual encouragement for those believers. Some of our people have been able to make contact and to continue to sustain that contact through the months of insurgency and the violence that has been there."