Four Christian teachers, two of them converts from Islam, were murdered by Islamic militants last Sunday, 13 April, in Beledweyne in south-central Somalia.
Mr Daud Assan Ali (aged 64), Ms Rehana Ahmed (aged 32), both of Somali origin, and two Kenyans were shot and killed when militants stormed the school where the Christians were sleeping.
Both Mr Ali and Ms Ahmed lived in the UK and were converts from Islam to Christianity. Mr Ali returned to his home town in 2004 to realise his life-long dream of establishing a school. The Hiran community education project Private English School was only completed one month ago. In his blog for supporters of the school, Mr Ali expressed concern about night-time raids by militant fighters in his last posting on 30 March.
A spokesman for the Islamist group responsible for the attack on the town claimed that the killings were not premeditated, but that the four teachers had been caught in cross fire. However, several residents of Beledweyne are convinced that Mr Ali and his colleagues were singled out because they were Christians and the Islamists feared that they were teaching their pupils about Christianity. Mr Ali’s wife also said in an interview that her husband had been targeted because he was a convert from Islam to Christianity.
There are a tiny number of Somali converts to Christianity living in Somalia, many of whom have been murdered in recent years by Islamic radicals, who have vowed to wipe out all Somali Christians. Recent fighting between Somali Islamic militias and Ethiopia has heightened anti-Christian feelings, as there is a long history of conflict between Somalis, who historically have all been Muslims, and Ethiopians, who historically have been majority Christian.
“Somali converts from Islam to Christianity are specially at risk at this moment in time. They need our prayers urgently,” says Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund.