Somaliland Christians Face Jail After Leaving Islam

Thursday, April 8, 2021

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

(Worthy News) - Authorities in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland seek long prison terms for at least six people who converted from Islam to Christianity, Worthy News established Thursday.

Well-informed Christian activists said the troubles began January 21-22 when police in Hargeisa, the capital, detained a Christian couple and other believers.

Police arrested “Mohamed and Hamdi and their newborn baby, as well as an Ethiopian woman, Aster and Hamdi A, a Somali woman,” explained advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).

Soon after, on February 14-15, more “arrests of Christians in Hargeisa took place, added MEC, which closely monitored the cases.

On Easter Sunday, the “Attorney General filed charges” against several believers “asking the Hargeisa regional court to set a trial date,” MEC told Worthy News.

They are reportedly charged with “offenses against the state religion Islam” and “inciting others to disobey” public order laws. “Three of them, including Mohamed and Hamdi, are also charged with apostasy as well as spreading and teaching Christianity.”


Not all names were immediately revealed. But MEC clarified that the detained Ethiopian and Somali women were not yet mentioned in the indictment. “Their lawyer is seeking clarity as to their status.”

Somaliland’s constitution says “Islam is the religion of the Somaliland state” and bans “the promotion of any religion in the territory of Somaliland, other than Islam.”

While not explicitly mentioning conversion, Christians suggest the legal status makes it impossible to convert from Islam to Christianity openly. The perceived "defamation of Islam" carries penalties of up to two years in prison in Somaliland.

Somali Christians urged prayers “for wisdom” and “God’s presence” amid increasing concerns about the inmates' plight, Worthy News learned. “The lawyer is not always granted access to his clients. Depending on the guards present, access can be denied, ” MEC added. However, “He reports that all were in good health and treated well,” the group said, citing local sources.

In September 2020, another Christian couple was detained and later deported to Somalia for Christian activities, but there were no leniency signs towards those currently held.

The legal wrangling faced by the Christians underscores broader persecution of non-Muslims in Somalia and its Islamic breakaway region Somaliland, according to rights monitors.


Somalia is number 3 on the annual World Watch List of 50 nations, where advocacy group Open Doors claims Christians face the most extreme persecution. “The pressure on Christians” in the Horn of Africa nation of more than 16 million “remains at an extreme level,” the group

“Christians in the country risk being killed by Islamic militants and clan leaders,” the group said in a recent assessment. “Elders and family members monitor the movements of any suspected Christian convert.”

Open Doors, which works in the area, warned that in “recent years, the situation appears to have got even worse. Islamic militants have intensified their hunt for Christians, particularly any in a position of leadership.”

It also noted that all Christians from a Muslim background are in great danger in Somalia as “everybody is considered from a Muslim background.” Those living in areas under the control of the al-Shabab terror group “are particularly vulnerable,” it noted.

In Somaliland and other areas that are internationally seen as part of Somalia, it is “impossible to publicly admit your Christian faith,” Open Doors suggested.


“Islam is considered a crucial part of Somali identity. And if any Somali is suspected of having converted to Christianity, they are in great danger. Members of their family, clan, or community will harass, intimidate or even kill them. Women may be raped and forcibly married,” Open Doors wrote.

Especially Christians from a Muslim background are considered a “high-value target” by al-Shabab militants “who have often executed believers on the spot when discovered,” the group stressed.

That has added to the suffering of the estimated hundreds of Christians in breakaway Somaliland and other parts of Somalia. “If a Christian man is killed or abducted, his whole family suffers, as the man is usually the breadwinner. The remaining family is often left unprotected and seen as a stain on the community.”

Despite suffering, a Christian, identified as Momina, is not considering giving up faith in Jesus Christ. “We were all dead, but Jesus came to save us and give us a new life,” the Christian was quoted as saying in published remarks.

The believer added: “I leave my life in His hands. I am so excited that God is with me wherever I am; I am also glad the Lord listens to my prayers.”