By Worthy News Africa Service
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (Worthy News)-- Somalia's minority Christians faced new challenges Thursday, January 6, after their most comprehensive Christian library was reportedly destroyed by Muslim militants who also threatened to continue killing Christians.
Fighters of Al-Shabaab, an Islamic group that has pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda militants, destroyed a Christian library that also served as an underground Bible college in southern Somalia, said International Christian Concern (ICC), a rights organization investigating cases of religious persecution.
During the December 16 incident in the Luuq district of Somalia, militants destroyed the library and brought Bibles, Christian books, and audio/video materials to the city center and burned them after the Muslim noon prayer, ICC added. The library was located in a derelict farm on the Juba River, Christians said.
Somali Christians often literally bury their Bibles and other Christian materials because of "intense persecution" from Islamic extremists, ICC explained.
Speaking on condition of anonymity , a leader of an underground church said in published remarks that the library "served as an underground Somali Bible college, [and it's] one of the biggest and the most comprehensive Somali Christian libraries in southern Somalia."
There was also concern Thursday, January 6, over the whereabouts of a man responsible for the library. "We have the information that the guardian of the library, who is a Christian man, fled the area hours after the library was found by the Islamists" because Christian converts from Islam face a likely death sentence, added ICC representative Jonathan Rocha. The man has not surfaced since, according to ICC investigators, adding to concerns he may have been harmed.
Last year, Islamic groups killed several Christians in Somalia, Rocha said. "All of the Christians inside Somalia are converts from Islam, and, as you know, converting from Islam is a crime, according to Islam, which is punishable by death."
Somalia’s Western-backed government has been battling insurgents, including the al-Shabaab militia, which has pledged to kill Christians in the country and turn it into a hard-line Islamic state. Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Peacekeepers of the African Union Mission in Somalia have said they will train an additional 800 policemen to provide security in the capital, Mogadishu, at a time when AU peacekeepers claim they make at least some gains against militias seeking to topple the government. (With editing by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).