Somali Christians and Missionaries Murdered

Sunday, January 19, 2003

As anti-Christian violence spreads in devastated African nation

By: Stefan J. Bos
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (ANS) -- Several Christians and Westerners have been killed in violent attacks as anti-Christian violence spreads throughout the mainly Islamic, impoverished African nation, Barnabas Fund said Friday Dec. 19.

The Barnabas Fund, which supports Christians in the Islamic world, identified Italian nun Annalena Tonneli, known as the Mother Theresa of Africa, as among those Christians murdered in recent weeks along with several other missionary workers.

Sister Tonneli, who had served in Somalia for thirty years "founding a TB hospital, orphanages and schools," was killed October 5 by two armed men in front of the hospital, said Barnabas Fund in a statement seen by ASSIST News Service (ANS).

Soon after British couple Richard and Enid Eyeington, working for SOS Children's villages in Somaliland were shot dead October 20 by several gunmen in their home inside the school compound, while watching television, added the organization.


Last month a Kenyan Christian working for the Seventh Day Adventist mission in Gedo, South West Somalia, was reportedly murdered by Islamist radicals, although no more details were given.

The Barnabas Fund said "the attacks appear to be deliberately anti-Christian and anti-Western," and are likely linked to radical Somali Islamist group, Kulanka Culimada, which threatened with violence earlier this year.

This Mogadishu based group urged its supporters to treat all Somali Christians "as apostates from Islam who ought to be killed," after a tiny persecuted Christian community in Somalia sent several delegates to peace talks currently held in Nairobi.


The Christians had demanded the right of freedom of religion and assembly, political representation, and free movement, said Barnabas Fund, which has close contacts with church sources insight the country.

Christian representatives were reportedly "shouted down by Muslim delegates who insisted Somalia had no Christians and who declared Islam to be the official religion of Somalia."

Barnabas Fund said the verbal abuse "seems to mirror prejudices widely held by Muslim Somalis which justify violence against Christians, both indigenous and expatriate."


Complicating the situation is violence between different clans of war lords in the divided nation with reports that at least 60 people were killed and another 90 wounded in renewed fighting this week in the northwest part of Somalia's Galgadud Region.

Over 99 percent of the single party republic's six million people are Muslims, and analysts say many regard Christianity as a foreign religion of their historic enemies in Ethiopia and their former colonial masters, Italy and the Britain.

Aid and mission work by Christian bodies in the colonial period resulted in a tiny Christian community of up to one thousand people, mainly in the south.


Church property and institutions were nationalized in 1972 and all mission work was stopped in 1974. "Many Christian Somalis have fled abroad as a result of the wars, chaos, civil strife and instability which followed the collapse of Somalia in 1991," said Barnabas Fund, a situation which apparently continued following the withdrawal of American forces in 1994.

Christian churches have been driven underground because of persecution and a number of believers have been imprisoned and martyred over the years, human rights organizations say.

"Evangelism is prohibited, and believers worship on Friday to avoid association with foreign Christianity. Most church buildings have collapsed and are in ruins," said Barnabas Fund which has often urged Christians around the world to pray for persecuted believers.