|A street view in Somalia
COSV / CC BY-SA 3.0
Hassan Hurshe (28), a Somali convert from Islam to Christianity, was publicly shot in the head in the town of Jilib in June 2013 by militants from the Islamist group al-Shabaab. It is thought that the group had been monitoring him since his return to Somalia in 2010. His parents, widow and young son fled the area after his murder.
Hassan’s killing is only one of numerous recent anti-Christian attacks carried out by al-Shabaab in Somalia. The group has declared its intention “to get rid of the barbaric and non-Islamic culture in the country” and that converts from Islam would be “under the sword of the holy warriors”. Kidnapping, sexual abuse, torture and murder are among the brutal punishments meted out on the small number of Christian converts. Dozens of Christians have been executed since 2008, when the group seized control of central and southern Somalia. The chaotic nature of the country means that reports of murders that reach us may not reflect the actual number of such incidents.
Al-Shabaab, which has claimed affiliation with al-Qaeda since 2007, is fighting to establish a radical Islamic state in East Africa. Despite having been driven out of most major population centres, it continues to control some rural areas in the centre and south of the country, where it strictly implements sharia law using stonings, amputations and floggings.
Somalia has been without an effective government for many years. The introduction of a provisional constitution and the election of a new parliament and president are hopeful signs, but much of the country is still outside their control. The provisional constitution elevates sharia and greatly restricts religious freedom. It says, “No law which is not compliant with the general principles and objectives of sharia can be enacted” and, “No religion other than Islam can be propagated in the country.” Even in government-held areas Christian converts have to meet secretly or follow Jesus alone. Christianity is often associated with the oppression of the country by European colonial rulers.