NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists in Somalia identified as Al Shabaab rebels last month shot to death an underground Christian woman and her son and seriously wounded her husband, sources said.
The family was asleep at their home at dawn in Afgoi, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Mogadishu, when at least four armed men attacked them on or around Feb. 10 shouting the jihadist slogan, “Allah Akbar [God is greater],” and, “We cannot allow the defiling of our religion with a foreign, Western religion,” said family head Suleiman Abdiwahab.
The 38-year-old secret Christian, a convert from Islam, is recovering from gunshot wounds to his chest near the right shoulder.
“The gunmen fired several shots, then destroyed the door with a big metallic object and then were able enter into the house,” Abdiwahab told Morning Star News. “They randomly shot at everyone.”
The assailants killed his wife, 35-year-old convert Faduma Osman, and the couple’s 11-year-old son, Ahmed Suleiman. The couple’s two daughters, 13 and 7, and their 9-year-old son were able to escape out a backdoor and have found safe shelter in another town, sources said.
Neighbors found the three shot family members lying in their blood. Discovering Abdiwahab still alive, they took him to a local hospital, and he was later transferred to Mogadishu for specialized treatment, he said. Afgoi is located in Somalia’s Lower Shebelle Region.
Al Shabaab, which has been battling government forces for more than 10 years, has taken control of farming areas surrounding Afgoi, sources said. Since the beginning of the year the rebels have briefly taken over the city three times, with Somali government forces driving them out each time, they said.
Afgoi is thus under control of the Somali government but is vulnerable to Al Shabaab attacks. The insurgent militants, the Somali cell of Al Qaeda, have retreated from major cities but still control some rural parts of southern and central Somalia. The past few years Al Shabaab has lost ground to government and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping forces.
Abdiwahab, the wounded family head, has been relocated to a shelter in another town, a source told Morning Star News.
“Abdiwahab, due to the blessings of the lord, has survived and is currently recovering from serious gunshot wounds,” he said.
Somalia is second only to North Korea on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.
The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda adhere to the teaching.
Somali law and societal tradition create an atmosphere of hostility toward non-Islamic faiths similar to that created in regimes that execute apostates. The country’s Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) does not explicitly prohibit Muslims from converting to other religions, but leaving Islam remains socially unacceptable in all areas, according to the U.S. State Department’s latest Report on International Religious Freedom (2015).
The PFC provides for the right of individuals to practice their religion but prohibits propagation of any religion other than Islam, and it makes Islam the state religion. All laws must comply with the general principles of sharia (Islamic law), the report states.
© 2017 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.
An Islamist group in Indonesia has, in front of a local police commander, sealed off a brand new church, torn down its sign and demanded that the local mayor cancel its permit. The Santa Clara Church in Bekasi, a heavily-populated commuter city to the east of the capital, Jakarta, only opened on 7 March.
The Islamic Forum Community (FUI) and other Islamist organisations have been protesting since the church obtained its permit in July 2015, claiming its leaders had used false identity cards to get it.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has started an appeal on the church’s behalf, and asked for supporters to send letters to ten top Indonesian leaders, including the President. The AHRC added that it will write a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The AHRC noted that local law enforcement agencies failed to intervene on the church’s behalf, leaving the congregants in “fear and uncertainty”.
The FUI complained that the church had been built in a community where the majority are Muslims and where Islamic boarding schools also exist. However, the Bekasi mayor refused to annul the church’s permit, saying it had fulfilled all the legal requirements necessary for construction. Indonesia’s Minister of Religion supported the mayor’s decision.
“Despite this, law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the Santa Clara Church congregants; in fact, it seems the agencies have no will or policy to enforce the law against vigilantes. As a result, the church congregation lives under pressure and intimidation,” wrote the AHRC in its letter of appeal.
The AHRC called upon the local police to “take a strong stance” against the FUI and “ensure that the government guarantees protection to the Santa Clara congregation to practise their religion”.
“Furthermore, the government should revise the law on the establishment of worship places without any discrimination among the various religions and beliefs that exist in Indonesia,” the letter concluded.
“In the last decade, the existence of intolerant vigilante groups has become a serious problem in Indonesia,” wrote the AHRC in its letter to supporters. “More importantly, the country’s law enforcement does not seem to be willing or committed to enforcing the law against such groups, despite their actions being in violation of the right to freedom of religion and belief guaranteed in the 1945 Indonesian Constitution. Article 29, Paragraph 2 requires the State to ‘ensure the freedom of every citizen to choose their own religion and to worship according to their religion and belief itself’.”
Indonesia is No. 43 on the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The current events in Bekasi are all too familiar for Christians in the Jakarta area.
In March 2013, the Batak Protestant Church, also in Bekasi, was torn down almost immediately after it had been built. Again, protesting Muslims claimed the church’s leaders had falsified signatures to obtain a permit.
Meanwhile, about 70 kilometres away in Bogor – also a commuter city outside Jakarta – another church continues to hold open-air Sunday morning services next to a main road, because its city mayor is afraid to insist that a Supreme Court order is carried out.
In April 2010, Bogor’s Taman Yasmin Indonesia Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) was sealed and padlocked by order of the mayor of Bogor and the city government. According to a national paper, he claimed that the previous sub-village head had falsified community signatures and that the church brought trouble with local Muslim neighbours. Later he said that the church should not be built on a street with an Islamic name.
In December 2010, the Indonesian Supreme Court affirmed the church’s constitutional right to freedom of worship; however the mayor refused to reopen the church. The Indonesian Ombudsman’s Office also urged the Bogor city administration to withdraw its later 2011 decree annulling the church’s construction permit.
GKI Yasmin’s congregation has resorted to conducting services on the pavement in front of their former church for more than two years. Then they moved to a monthly service in front of the Presidential Palace, alternating with services in other premises. In September last year, the church held its hundredth service outside the palace. A church leader told World Watch Monitor that number has now increased to 115 services.
©2016 World Watch Monitor reprinted with permission.