By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - A group of Christians in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland have been released from detention after charges related to alleged crimes against the state religion of Islam were dismissed following prayers, Christians said Monday.
Among those released were Mohamed and Hamdi, a couple arrested with their newborn baby in January 2021, Worthy News learned.
In April, six Christian converts from Islam were charged with "apostasy," the word used for abandoning Islam, among other alleged crimes.
Additionally, they were accused of "teaching and spreading Christianity" in the Islamic breakaway semi-desert territory of 3.5 million people on the coast of the Gulf of Aden.
The Christians were also charged with inciting others to commit public-order offenses, Christian trial observers said.
However, in a hearing at a regional court in Hargeisa, the capital, "the court dismissed all charges," explained Barnabas Fund, a Christian advocacy group. "Mohamed, Hamdi, and others were released immediately," added Barnabas Fund, which is supporting Christians facing difficulties in Muslim-dominated areas.
Barnabas Fund told Worthy News that their release was an answer to "prayers for the release of our brothers and sisters in Somaliland." However, it still urged prayers for those being released and the tiny Christian minority in Somaliland.
Rights activists have expressed broader concerns about reports of persecution of Christians in Somaliland under President Musa Bihi Abdi. The 73-year-old Somaliland politician, a former military officer, has been in power since late 2017.
Though not internationally recognized, Somaliland has a working political system, government institutions, police force, and currency.
According to experts, there are at least hundreds of Christians in Somalia, of which Somaliland wants to break away. In recent years there have been reports of killings and other forms of persecution of devoted Christians in the region. "It is impossible to admit your Christian faith in Somalia publicly," said the Open Doors charity.
According to Christians familiar with the situation, official "church life" is non-existent as Islam is considered a crucial part of Somali identity.
"If any Somali is suspected of having converted to Christianity, they are in great danger," Open Doors explained. "Members of their family, clan, or community will harass, intimidate or even kill them. Women may be raped and forcibly married."
Somalia ranks third on the annual Open Doors 'World Watch List' of 50 nations where it says Christians suffer most for their faith.