Broadcasting hope to Somalia
Somali, like many Ethiopian languages, descends from the ancient Cushite tongue. It is the native tongue in southeastern Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, in large ethnic communities in Kenya and Yemen, and among millions of refugees beyond – about 15 million speakers, in all.
The wonderful message of the loving Saviour who gave all to save hopeless sinners is unknown to most Somalis. MERF’s Somali gospel radio programmes are a lifeline in very troubled times.
These troubles are the result of a long history of conflict. Somali families have suffered for decades from armed tribal conflict, especially since the fall of the Government in 1991. This has intensified in recent years into large-scale civil war, following the Ethiopian invasion, replacement of Islamic courts by a weak government, and the subsequent withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.
A small number of African Union troops remain in Somalia, while warlords, each claiming to be more true to Islam than the other, battle for power and influence.
To intensify an already dire situation, the areas inhabited by Somali populations often do not receive rain, and so experience famine. Indeed, it was the semi-arid climate of the horn of Africa that brought about the traditional Somali nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle of raising livestock.
For centuries, coastal Somalis were fishermen and traders, crossing the Red Sea to western Arabia, birthplace of Islam, and beyond. Somali tribes gradually converted to Islam by the end of the 7th century AD. This brought about a relative unity among them, but it was not a unity in the gospel of Christ.
Today, Somalis who believe in Christ are lonely and few. They meet together irregularly in homes, as they can. Somali Bibles are a rare treasure. But these believers cannot keep from quietly sharing the love of their Saviour with relatives, friends and neighbours, even though this can be costly.
Here are translations from some recent letters to MERF, from listeners in response Somali gospel broadcasts. From a university student in Ethiopia: ‘Thank you for your teachings on the air. There is only the righteous way to God through the love of Christ. Isn’t it? Please send me a Bible written in Somali’.
From Kenya: ‘Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thanks for your concern about us. Yes, we have arrived safely to Nairobi although we had a difficult trip on the road from Mogadishu – It was hard to talk what we experienced, but the Lord helped us in his way and guided us in every aspect’.
From Somalia: ‘Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Seven of our brethren have been killed in Baidoa last week, where your friend was killed last year … They plan to kill you … Please move to another place which nobody knows. Do pray for the families that they [martyred brethren] left and for our protection too. Peace!’ (More than 20 Somali believers were martyred publicly in 2009.)