Martyrdom or Genocide?

From the June/July 1996 issue of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity Bulletin.

A Christian leader in the Middle East commented on the suffering of his flock: “Martyrdom of the individual—yes, but genocide of the whole community—no.” The former, he explained, was something which a Christian must be prepared to accept if necessary, but the latter was entirely unacceptable. The following article tells of the latest Somali Christian to die for his faith. The aim of his killers appears to be to eliminate all Somali believers if possible.

A Pakistani Christian woman who had converted from Islam was threatened with death by the Jama’at-i Islami. The other Christians (not converts) with whom she associated were also included in the death threat.

In Morocco Christians used often to return to Islam when arrested and tried in connection with their faith. However, a new courage has taken hold of the Christian community, and they are refusing to deny their Christian faith. Ait Bakim Jamaa, a Moroccan Christian imprisoned last September, has been released—but only into a psychiatric hospital, which is little improvement, if any, over a prison situation. The authorities have said he will only be released from the hospital on condition he undertakes not to attend church and not to wear a cross, in other words he must conceal his Christian faith and act publicly as a Muslim. At the time of writing he remains in the hospital.

In the three examples above, a Christian community is being suppressed to the point of destruction. How far can Western Christians remain indifferent to those who suffer for the sake of Christ? In response to the sufferings of Christians, some Western Christian leaders have denied that Muslims do such things. Others suggest that the underlying cause is ethnic not religious. Still others argue that where such things occur is merely the word of a few extremists and not typical of Islam. Has our secular, post-modernist society affected Christians to the point where suffering for one’s faith is no longer taken seriously?


A sixth Somali Christian in Muqdisho (Mogadishu) was killed by Islamic extremists on 3 or 4 April 1996.

Xaaji Maxamed Xuseen (Haaji Muhammed Hussein) had become a Christian in the early 1980’s while studying in Canada. He returned to Somalia in 1985 and worked as a professor at Lafoole University. After the outbreak of the civil war, he worked for various relief groups, as well as for UNESCO, trying to rebuild the school system in the war-ravaged Somali capital. Several other Somalis became Christians through his witness.

Xaaji became increasingly anxious about his safety because of threats from Islamic radicals. He had witnessed masked gunmen shoot dead his Christian friend Liibaan on 21 March 1994. Liibaan and Xaaji had often met together and discussed the Bible.

In February and March 1996 Xaaji became more open in his Christian witness and more fervent in prayer than ever before. On 3 April 1996 he was kidnapped near his house in Muqdisho. His body was found the following day in an abandoned building close by. The dominant Somali Islamist group, Al-Itixaad al-Islami, claimed that they had killed him. They added that since they believed that Xaaji had been the last Somali Christian in Muqdisho they would now turn their attention to Somali Christians in Nairobi, Kenya.

Pray for Xaaji’s widow and six children, the youngest of whom was born 18 days after her father’s death. Pray that they may find Jesus Christ to be their comforter.

Pray for the protection of Somali Christians in Kenya and for other Christians working amongst them. The radical Islamic group, Al-Itixaad al-Islami, who threatened Somali Christians in Nairobi, knows precise details of the names, clans, locations and activities of those involved.

A young Christian relative of Xaaji’s said, “Xaaji was closer to me than my father or mother. There were times when I have been tempted to cover up my faith. The last time I saw him, he challenged me never to deny my belief in Christ. Now, after his death, I want to be as brave as him and, if need be, to die rather than pretend I am not a Christian.”

Praise God for the courage of this young man. Pray for him and others for whom martyrdom is a very real possibility. Jesus said, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

If you wish to help your brothers and sisters persecuted for Christ in the Muslim world, you may designate a gift to EPM to “Suffering Churches.” 100% of it will be sent to a worthy organization that works directly with those in need.

This article appeared in Eternal Perspectives, Fall 1996.