The following report is from a friend. Please read, share and disseminate. And pray for these people and for persecuted Christians throughout the world.
A Mission of Compassion
Due to their nomadic lifestyle background, almost all Somali ethnic extended families are widely scattered. Not being an exception, my father, Abdi Gurhan’s extended family, originated from Somalia’s southern portal town of Kismayo, is far widely scattered throughout eastern Africa, Middle East and the Western World.
Nearly one third of my father’s over one hundred descendants converted to Christianity during the last three decades.
My sister, Istahil, the second last child of my mother was born on 15th November 1975 in Mogadishu, Somalia, were she lived and worked until 1991 when the central government of Somalia collapsed. In 1992, with some of Gurhan family members, she moved to Jigjiga, the capital city of Ethiopia’s Somali Region. She married Bashir Ahmed in 1997 and lived with him in Jigjiga until 2002. They were both jobless and when life there became too difficult for them to bear; she decided to move with their then two children to a refugee camp in eastern Kenya, leaving Bashir behind. After registering in the camp, Istahil decided to visit my family in Nairobi, and stayed with us for several months.
Although Istahil knew about my family’s Christian faith, she had no problem with it and continued to practice her Islamic faith. A month or two after staying with us, she started to admire our way of life and started to ask my older daughter Nimo, questions about Christianity. They read the Bible, discussed and prayed together secretly for some time, avoiding my wife and me. My wife, who with her own reasons was always uncomfortable with converts and Christian prayers, found out my sister’s interest in Christianity and her prayer fellowship with Nimo. One evening, my wife burst angrily accusing me of not stopping Nimo from preaching to my sister and other girls in the neighbourhood. Unaware of her accusations, I called Nimo to enquire about what was going on. When she confirmed to me that my sister was very interested to know more about Christianity, I decided to talk to Istahil. To my amazement, she said, she accepted and believed that Jesus Christ is her Lord and Saviour and that she wanted to attend catechism classes and be baptized.
Istahil and her two older children, Ladan and Saddiq converted to Christianity and were baptized in 2003 at LHF centre in Nairobi by the Rev’d Dr Anssi Simojoki.
In 2004 they moved to Dadab refugee camps. Her husband joined them there later. Due to the difficult living conditions in the refugee camps, in December 2009, they decided to go back to Somalia and start a small business in Bakaraha open market. Although I objected to their moving to Somalia, Bashir and his family went ahead with their decision and resettled in Mogadishu’s Hawlwadaag district.
My sister and her family was living in Mogadishu, running their small business and occasionally travelling to Nairobi and Garissa, Kenya for business purposes, since the beginning of 2010.
A Mission of Compassion
Tuesday 09 November 2010 at 12:30PM my sister Istahil Gurhan and her husband Bashir Ahmed were both martyred by the Islamist militia of Al Shabab in Mogadishu. Several Al Shabab gunmen went to their residence and after asking few questions about their faith and connections in Kenya, they dragged them out of their living room and shot them with several bullets each and left them when they confirmed that they were dead.
The victims left on earth four children, Ladan (girl) 13 yrs, Saddiq (boy) 10 yrs, Nura (girl) 2 yrs and Yusuf (boy) one month infant, under the care of no one. R, the lady next door, a poor widow with several children, took them in for several days. I requested her to hide them and take care of them for some days until I find someone else. I also sent two hundred dollars to her.
Few days later, I managed to communicate to another sister of mine L, living in a small town not very far from Mogadishu. When I told her about our sister and her husband’s murder and the fate of their children, she was terrified and decided to immediately travel to Mogadishu, collect the orphans and claim the store where Istahil and her husband used to sell goods from Kenya. L was escorted by her husband and brother-in-law to Mogadishu.
First, they went to the victims’ residence and asked the neighbours about the couple’s corpses and the children. None of the neighbours was willing to tell them about the victims’ corpses but they were told the children’s whereabouts. They proceeded to Bakaraha market, where the store was located. As they were struggling with the locks, Al Shabaab gunmen approached them and ordered them not to try to open the store. After a long, Islamist style inquisition, L and her companions hurriedly left the place intimidated, annoyed and hopeless, to remove the children from the neighbourhood before they too are prevented moving from the area.
Al Shabab is notoriously known for their children use and abuse. They established dozens of children training camps throughout southern Somalia, where they train small children as Islamist jihadists and suicide bombers. They can even take the 13 years old girl as a wife. Somalia is a lawless land, where only those Islamists with guns and money can do what they want.
L took the children to her home town, 30KM north of Mogadishu and kept them indoors until the day they flew from Mogadishu to the northern Somaliland city of Hargeysa.
The main objective of my mission to the Horn of Africa was to save the lives of these children by moving them to a safer place as soon as possible, so that they can live as children with my brother’s family and my mother and continue their schooling there.
Since the risks and dangers I could face in this rescue mission were very high, I decided to travel under the cover of a businessman, to avoid Islamist inquisitors, and prepared or acquired all the necessary documents for my journey and fictitious business company.
In addition to Islamist enmity against me and my work, the case of the children could trigger their anger and bring much more hostility. If the news about my being there and mission goes public ahead of me, I could face fierce challenges and physical attacks from the children’s paternal relatives and clans men.
On Thursday evening, 2nd of December 2010, I flew from Brussels Airport, Belgium to Djibouti, the capital city of the tiny Horn of African republic of Djibouti, engulfed between Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and the straits of Babel.
I reached there on Friday afternoon and settled with warm welcome, in my still another sister’s house. In the morning of Saturday, 4th December, I visited the offices of Djibouti’s Immigration authorities and asked for the possibility of bringing in orphan children from Somalia without travel documents and visas. Although I expected compassion, instead I received a very harsh response and warning not to try to traffic Somali children to the Western countries.
Immediately, I decided to leave the country to Ethiopia. I called local airline agents and booked for flight to Addis Ababa that same afternoon.
I settled in a small hotel room in the out skirts of Addis Ababa and called a Somali Christian friend, who is married to an Ethiopia lady, and was living and working in Addis Ababa the last two decades. We had prayer fellowship and I handed over to him 100 copies of the booklet GNAJ to distribute. Next morning he hired a private vehicle for me and I continued my journey towards eastern Ethiopia.
Once in Harar, the city I planned to operate from my rescue mission, I booked for a room in a well protected hotel in the city’s well to do suburb area. I called my sister L and we started planning for the children’s secret journey to Ethiopia.
Telephone cables in the area were being maintained and there was no wireless internet in the hotel, I was also avoiding public cybercafés. Therefore, my only communication method to the outside world was my mobile phone, which was many times not going through.
On 15th December, three of my sister’s children flew safely from Mogadishu with local airline service to Garowe town, in eastern Somalia’s Puntland State, with the escort of my sister L. The fourth child, an infant of several weeks old, was sick for few days and departed this world peacefully to join his martyred parents in heaven.
The children travelled by land on a hired vehicle and reached Hargeysa city of Somaliland on 20th December. Next morning, I travelled with a friend in a hired private vehicle to the border of Somalia and returned with the children in the afternoon of the next day to Jigjiga, the capital town of Somali Regional State of Ethiopia.
The next six days the children and I stayed together with my mother in her house. We bought some clothing, sleeping materials and other essential goods for the children. A room, next to that of my mom was given to the children and a house help girl was hired to take care of the children.
On 28th December, I travelled back to Addis Ababa by land. I spend one day in Addis and flew back to Brussels on 30th December.
The Children’s Ordeal
When I first met the children at the border, they were very scared and not willing to talk about anything. The older two were sobbing, silently crying with tears on their eyes from time to time, and made me cry with them. The small one was always asking when her mom will come back, if her dad is still working in his shop. I had no answers to her questions but only held her close to myself and silently cried, hiding my sorrowful face from her.
The second day with my mom Ladan, the older girl, started to tell us how her parents were murdered by the Islamists, how it happened, the reaction of the neighbours and how they suffered afterwards.
She told us that there was a man who frequently visited her parents and who threatened them, that he will report to the Islamists about their Christian faith if they don’t pay him. In the beginning they gave him some money every time he comes but later they refused to bribe him. Then he reported to the Islamists.
The corpses of Bashir and Istahil remained in front of their house for three days and nights. When some of the neighbours wanted to bury them, Al Shabaab Islamists threatened to kill anyone who felt sorry for them. They said, Christians have no place for burial in Somalia and they should remain in the street until they corpses get rotten. Ladan used to watch her parents swollen corpses from a hole on the door and silently cried day and night. Saddiq mostly remained in bed silently.
R, the widow next door, whom I paid the two hundred dollars to take care of the children for several days, locked the children in a room and let them starve. All the day she was away to her stalls in the market and come home only in the evenings. Then she gave them little food and water. The babies never had milk for several days. The infant kept crying for few days and become silent. The two year old was sharing with what her siblings receive for dinner. Whenever Ladan asked the widow for milk for the baby, she received very harsh words like, “I have no milk for my own Muslim baby and you want me to provide milk for this vagabond baby of the infidels? He will better die than have milk.”
Some of the neighbours felt pity for them and their parents, others were very happy that the infidels, the enemies of Allah, were killed and their corpses lay down in the street for dogs to eat. And that the children are lucky, because now they will grow as faithful Muslims.
Ladan does not understand what Christians and infidels are! She does not understand why her parents were murdered! Saddiq was deeply sad. He repeatedly told me that he will one day find his parents killers and have revenge. I asked him to pray for those killers, that God to show them the right way.
To write this story was too difficult for me. It was too much for me to see and hear what these children went through. However, there are other children who went through the same ordeal, and who still suffer begging for food in the streets of Mogadishu and other towns with no glimmer of hope in sight. May God help them too.
The text has been edited slightly. Changes have been made to orthography, and a few names have been removed to protect the individuals in question from reprisal.