The Somali people
There are probably between eight and nine million Somalis in Somalia and Somaliland, while many others live in the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya.
Somali refugees are found in the Arabian Peninsula, the Gulf, Western Europe, North America and New Zealand. Some Somalis are semi-nomadic pastoralists, who take care of their camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Others are urbanised.
Ever since the beginning of this century, the Somali people have continuously extended their territory. Today, they are settled all around the Horn of Africa.
Somalis are Muslims who, along with their expansion, also spread Islam. About 500 years ago, a fanatical leader, Ahmed Gran, led a ‘Holy War’ against the Christians living in the Ethiopian highlands.
His starting point was Harar, which is now near the border between Somaliland and Ethiopia. With its 90 mosques and shrines it is considered one of the holy places in the Islamic world.
The Somali people developed their own brand of Islam, adapted to their lifestyle. For example, their women-folk are not veiled. Their appearance, even in public, is surprisingly free and self-confident.
The traditions of the Somali people are passed on in poetry and prose. Even to this day, poetic language plays an important role in everyday life and is used for story-telling, spreading new ideas or for just whiling away the time.
In Djibouti and Ethiopia, the Afar and Somali territories border each other. Northern Somalis and Afar look quite similar and are hard to distinguish. However, they are often fierce enemies.
Somalia gained its independence in 1960, and, a few years later, clan fighting and war with Ethiopia brought the country to destitution. At present, there is still inter-clan fighting and various warlords rule the country. The north declared independence from Somalia in 1992, and called itself Somaliland.
In 1977 the Bible was published in the Somali language – three years after Christian workers had been expelled from the country.
Today, Somalis living outside their homeland are being reached with the gospel. Several Christian groups work around the Horn of Africa. Christian radio programmes are broadcast in Somali from the Seychelles. Before civil war broke out there were several hundred Somali Christians. How many are there today? Probably, very few.