Somali, like many Ethiopian languages, descends from the ancient Cushite tongue. The semi-arid climate of the horn of Africa brought about the traditional Somali nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle of raising livestock. For centuries coastal Somalis have been fishermen and traders, crossing the Red Sea to western Arabia, birthplace of Islam, and beyond. Somali tribes gradually converted to Islam by the end of the 7th century A.D. This brought about relative unity among them. Response:"Dear brother I am very happy to have your message this month and it shows to me what your heart is like...we have to hear your radio broadcasts from the internet when we have private access and have contacts with one another. Sometimes we would like to have more fellowship with others." - from Mogadishu
Somali is the native tongue in southeastern Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, large ethnic communities in Kenya and Yemen, and millions of refugees beyond-about 15 million speakers. Somali families have suffered for decades from armed tribal conflict, especially since the fall of the government in 1991. This has intensified in recent years into large-scale civil war following the Ethiopian invasion, replacement of Islamic courts by a weak government, and the subsequent withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. A small number of African Union troops remain in the country, while warlords, each claiming to be more true to Islam than the other, battle for power and influence. To intensify an already dire situation, this season areas inhabited by Somali populations have not received rain and are at the brink of famine.
The wonderful message of the loving Savior who gave all to save hopeless sinners is unknown to most Somalis. MERF's Somali gospel radio programs are a lifeline in very troubled times. Still, Somalis who believe in Christ are lonely and few. They meet together irregularly in homes as they can. Somali Bibles are a rare treasure. But these believers cannot keep from quietly sharing the love of their Savior with relatives, friends, and neighbors, even though this can be costly.