Several Christians and Westerners have recently been killed in violent attacks on Christian workers in Somalia while a Christian delegation attempts to make itself heard at Somali peace talks.
During 2003 several cases of violent attacks against Christians and westerners took place in Somalia as part of a new wave of persecution. On 5 October an elderly Italian nun, Dr Annalena Tonneli, who had served in Somalia for thirty years founding a TB hospital, orphanages and schools, and was known as "the Mother Theresa of Africa", was murdered in Borama, Somaliland,by two armed men in front of the hospital. In another attack on 20 October, a British couple in their sixties, Richard and Enid Eyeington, working for SOS Children's villages in Somaliland were shot dead by several gunmen in their home inside the school compound while watching television. Also, in November a Kenyan Christian working for the Seventh Day Adventist mission in Gedo, South West Somalia, was murdered by Islamist radicals. The attacks appear to be deliberately anti-Christian and anti-Western.
In February 2003 a radical Somali Islamist group, Kulanka Culimada, based in Mogadishu issued a press release in which they called for all Somali Christians to be treated as apostates from Islam who ought to be killed. This was in response to a bold move by the tiny persecuted Christian community in Somalia that had sent several delegates to peace talks currently being held in Nairobi (initiated in 2002) to demand the right of freedom of religion and assembly, political representation, and free movement. The Christian representatives were shouted down by Muslim delegates who insisted Somalia had no Christians and who declared Islam to be the official religion of Somalia. This seems to mirror prejudices widely held by Muslim Somalis which justify violence against Christians, both indigenous and expatriate.
LEGACY OF HATRED
Most Somalis, over 99.5%, are Muslims who regard Christianity as a foreign religion of their historic enemies in Ethiopia and of their former colonial masters the Italians and the British. There is a long history of conflict between Muslim Somalis and Christian Ethiopians, so anti-Christian sentiment runs deep. Most Somalis take it for granted that a true Somali is a Muslim and converts to Christianity must be traitors.
VULNERABLE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
Aid and mission work by Christian bodies in the colonial period resulted in a tiny Christian community of between five hundred to a thousand, 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. Christian churches were driven underground and have suffered much persecution. A number of believers have been imprisoned and martyred over the years. Evangelism is prohibited, and believers worship on Friday to avoid association with foreign Christianity. Most church buildings have collapsed and are in ruins.