“Brother will betray brother to death,and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:12–13)
Today in the twenty-first century, Jesus’ words are reality for millions of Christians persecuted for their faith. And for the millions of Somalis living in East Africa, of which 99% are Muslim, Mark 13:12–13 is certain for any Somali who leaves Islam to follow Jesus.
Farah* is one of the few Somalis who has made the life-threatening choice to follow Jesus. And because of his decision, he has lost everything—including his family and community.
Farah lives alone in a house that contains hardly anything apart from a few mats, a mattress, a chair, and some clothing. When he said “yes” to Jesus, he also lost the tribal community Somalis normally enjoy.
Farah has come to expect nothing but enmity from them. But he also knows he is lucky to be alive. For Somali Christians open about their Christian faith, the consequences are swift and often deadly.
A Longing to Know More of Jesus
As the child of a father who was also the well-known imam in the local mosque, Farah would seem to be one of the most unlikely Christians. But Christ revealed Himself to Farah early in his life.
“When I was eight, I heard a voice I couldn’t recognize telling me to follow Him,” Farah shares. “After that, I had a longing to know more about Jesus.”
Looking back, Farah can see how Jesus consistently worked in his life—starting with the foreign Christian family who moved in next to them and introduced him to the Bible. When his regular visits to their home were discovered by his parents, he was forbidden to go back. But Farah was determined.
He began to secretly climb over the fence separating the two houses.
“Later, I came to hate studying the Quran,” Farah remembers. “Instead, I listened to Christian radio programs in Somali. My family said, ‘He has been caught by the evil called Christianity.’”
By age thirteen, Farah had a mature faith that began to surface. At school, he started preaching to friends. He brought three of the forty children in class to Christ.
That’s when the public persecution began. The school promptly expelled him. Afterwards, some of Farah’s classmates told his parents he had become a Christian. That’s when the family persecution started. At age seventeen, he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel.
“At the time, my father announced I had to be killed, but my mother and brothers were against his decision. Instead, I was kept in jail for six months in isolation . . . Nothing could stop me from preaching the gospel, so the officers said I had to be kept alone.” The isolation proved to be a tool God used to bring Farah even closer to Him.
“During that time, God spoke to my heart, strengthening me all the time,” he says. “For me, Christianity is like a man walking in the darkness with a light. He brought me the light in this dark place so that I could walk and live rightly.”
Disowned by Family, Tribe
But the adversity and trials Farah faced in prison and at the hands of his father paled in comparison to the challenges he endured into adulthood.
After finding and marrying a woman who was equally committed to Christ—a feat in East Africa—intense persecution broke out against non-Muslims in their region.
In East Africa, Christians like Farah were obvious targets. The intense persecution often forces Somalis into hiding. To escape jail or even death, Farah left the city, trading his home and ministry—everything he had—for seclusion and isolation.
The next trial would be sickness. But God used his failing health to forge new, life-giving connections. During that time, Farah first connected with Open Doors team workers who brought him medicine.
Four months after he fled, Farah’s worsening condition brought him back to the city he had left. By then, authorities were no longer searching for him. But his absence didn’t keep his family free from persecution. The separation was harder on his family than it was on him. “The community chased them from the house they stayed in,” he says. “They kept asking her why she followed her husband. Police and other people regularly came to our home asking where I was.”
Eventually, Farah’s wife took their five children and moved back to her parents’ home. Since then, Farah has also been completely abandoned by the community where he lives. People he didn’t know called and insulted him. Attempts to find employment or even odd jobs have been futile. However, Open Doors has helped him start an income-generating venture (specifics can’t be disclosed for security reasons) and continues to support him.
“My entire tribe disregarded me,” Farah says.
Strengthened by the Prayers of the Body of Christ
At age forty-three, Farah has grasped the second part of Mark 13:13: “ . . . but the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
In an area of the world where following Jesus is a death sentence, Farah is persevering. Today, he attends secret fellowship. He is inspired by Matthew 5:10 (“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness . . .”) and has specific counsel for other new believers who are (or soon will be) in the throes of persecution.
“Always read the Bible and fix your eyes on Jesus,” he advises. “Pray fervently and give all your anxiety to God. We must understand that our fate is God Himself. When suffering comes to your life, be persistent.”
Farah notes that throughout Scripture, the imperative “Do not fear” is written three 365 times.
Though his decision to follow Jesus—and lead others to Him—has cost him everything, Farah says his soul is strengthened by the prayers and presence of the body of Christ.
“It’s your prayer that sustains me,” he says. “He uses you to strengthen me. My flesh brothers persecuted me and left me, but my brothers in Christ show me love. In my suffering, I realize there are brothers and sisters who prayed for me, showed concern for me, and helped me. This increased my faith.”
“May God bless all the people who are praying for and serving persecuted believers like me!”
Farah and his fellow Somali Christians in East Africa desperately need our prayers. May we be found faithful in standing with this intricate, delicate phenomenon that is the body of Christ among Somalis.
*Name and photos are representative for security reasons.