HARGEISA, SOMALILAND: (BosNewsLife) A married Christian couple detained for evangelizing in Muslim-majority Somaliland have neem released, well-informed sources told BosNewsLife.
Aid group Barnabas Fund said the couple was deported to Somalia, allowing them “to travel with their youngest child to a safe country and reunite with their two elder sons.”
Their names have not been released amid security concerns. Somaliland police spokesman Colonel Faisal Hiis Elmi confirmed that the Christians were detained on September 21 after Christian material was found at their home.
In remarks monitored by Worthy News, said police “arrested two apostates who had become preachers of Christianity.”
The couple made several appearances in the Somaliland regional court before being unexpectedly released and ordered to be deported on November 1, Christians said. Their release came after an unnamed European government official raised the issue with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Barnabas Fund explained.
The case underscored concerns about the plight of devoted Christians in the troubled Horn of Africa region. Islam is the official religion of Somaliland, a self-declared independent state without international recognition, where the constitution prohibits Muslims from converting to another faith. Its constitution also bars the “propagation of any religion other than Islam” such as evangelism and all laws must comply with the general principles of “sharia” or Islamic law.
In August 2017, the only remaining (Catholic) church in Somaliland was closed by authorities a few days after it opened temporarily following Muslim protests. Those turning to Christ in Somalia and its breakaway Somaliland also face attacks from the influential Islamic group al-Shabaab.
Christian rights groups say that this year also brought the added challenge of the coronavirus outbreak for up to 1,000 Christians in Somalia, including Somaliland.
The Republic of Somaliland as it is officially known broke away from Somalia after the overthrow of Somali military dictator Siad Barre in 1991 in a conflict that killed tens of thousands of people.
However, anti-Christian policies continue under Somaliland’s President Muse Bihi Abdi, who has ruled the breakaway, semi-desert territory on the coast of the Gulf of Aden since November 2017.