SM, Wednesday, 20 February, 2013
“I love Jesus more than anything and I suffered in persecution because of believing in Him, obeying Him and serving Him. I will not be living forever in this world and I want to leave a living legacy for others when I am not in this world.” Abdiweli wrote these words last years; little did we know that his martyrdom was imminent! On 7thFebruary 2013, a suspected Al Shabaab Islamists opened fire on two Christian leaders in Garissa, killing Ahmed Abdiweli.
Apparently the news of his death stirred the town. By Word of mouth, SMS and internet the news flooded the town and opinions as well as feelings were divided about his death!
“Weli gaal…is killed!”
A Somali blog reported this event less than an hour after its occurrence; “War deg deg ah: Abdiwali (Wali Gaal) iyo qof kale oo rayid ah oo goor dhow Garissa lagu dilay February 7, 2013 (Urgent News: Abdi weli (Weli ‘the infidel’) and another person, an ordinary citizen, killed recently in Garissa, February 7, 2013).
“Two people, ordinary citizens (non-military), were shot in the middle of Garissa Town just a few minutes ago, and one of them was Abdi Weli, well known as Weli ‘the infidel’, known broadly in the town of Garissa and generally in the North-Eastern Region of Kenya.”
“Some armed gunmen shot Weli “the Christian/ pagan” and another Kenyan man who was accompanying him not far from the KCB Bank, Main Branch of the Town of Garissa, country of Kenya.”
“Weli ‘the infidel’, who is a Somali man, is among the handful of people who are counted as Christians living in the town of Garissa for a long time and he was one who was encouraging (lit. fanning the flames) actively the spread of the Christian Religion…”
Aden Hassan chatting on Facebook asked: “How will he be buried? Where would he be in Garissa?” His brother and some of his family came out seeking to bury him, and this was to be in accordance to Somalis Islamic rites. Some of our brethren ceded to this until issues emerged making this proposition impossible. Since it was a serious police case no burial would have taken place before postmortem. The clan elders rejected this that he is an apostate. With no Christian graves in Garissa, we toyed with the thought of burying on his plot and home. This was not to be, being a lease hold area and being in a municipal town the law would not allow for this. He had to be flow to Nairobi to preserve his already decaying body as options were sought on where to lay his remains.
For many years, Abdiweli had faced threats against his life with determination not to be prevented from his commitment to bless the Somali people. After a long time hunt, Abdi was fatally shot in Garissa, Kenya, while driving down the street.
Abdiweli Ahmed converted to Christianity in 1990. There was great protest among his Somali people being the first bold follower of Christ. Soon after he was baptized in 1995, Ahmed came under threat from Muslims and fled the town. He joined YWAM to where he trained in discipleship and missions. He took up assignment as a missionary to Niger in 1996. During this time he married Helen, a native of Nigeria, who has faithfully and bravely served alongside him, since their marriage.
In 2000 he returned to Kenya, to face even intense threats for his life. On several occasions he was forced to leave Garissa for months waiting for tensions to cool. During these crises Abdiweli, joined Harbinger Missions School where he trained in theology and missions. He was ordained in 2004 as a pastor of East Africa Pentecostal Church. His opinion on missions was sought after and he made huge contribution towards the establishment of the Somali church.
His passion to play a role in establishing a Somali church lead him to make a trip to Somalia in 2009 where he sought to encourage Somali Christians, an invisibly tiny minority, in the religiously intolerant region of Somaliland.
He traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then used road to Somaliland. At the border crossing of Wajaale on February 19, he was denied entry despite having all proper travel documents. Apparently his Bible and other Christian literature he carried landed him in unexpected trouble with Somaliland immigration officials.
“I was beaten up for being in possession of Christian materials,” Abdiweli said “They threatened to kill me if I did not renounce my faith, but I refused to their face. They were inhuman.”
The chief border official in Wajaale, whom he could identify only as Jama, was his tormentor in-chief. Abdi said that their threats were heart-numbing as they struggled to subdue him. Jama and his colleagues claimed that they had killed two Somali Christians and would do the same to him. His pleas that he was a Kenyan whose faith was respected in his home country fell on deaf ears.
“I was abused, and they also abused my faith as the religion of pagans, which they said is unacceptable in their region,” he said. “I told them that I am Kenyan-born and brought up in Kenya, and my Christian faith is respected and recognized in Garissa.” Jama ordered Abdiweli’s incarceration, and he was locked up in an immigration cell for nine hours. The officials took from his bag three CDs containing his personal credentials and Christian educational literature. They also took his English Bible, two Christian books and US$ 400.00 he said. Abdiweli said he was released with the aid of an unnamed Ethiopian friend. “They warned me to never dare step into or think of going to Somaliland again,” said Abdi.
He wasn’t yet done with them and would not take such injustice lying down. He audaciously wrote a protest letter to Ethiopian, Kenyan and Somaliland authorities; “None has shown any signs of pursuing justice….” he said.
A Somali church leader in Mogadishu, Somalia, said in a telephone interview, “With the martyrdom of Rev. Abdiweli, the Somali church has lost its only eye.” He described Rev. Abdiweli as a “fearless evangelist, pastor and gifted missionary.”
The Somali Christian community will miss Rev. Abdiweli dearly. The Somali church has shown in the past to be very resilient.
A house church pastor in Baidawa, Somalia, described Rev. Abdiweli as, “One of the finest ministers the Somali church has ever produced.” She continued and said “the Somali church is the Lord’s and he will protect it from the evil one. No degree of Muslim persecution will destroy the Somali church.”
Abdiweli had a wit and courage that would not be silenced. With a stammer he stunned a Somali elder who tried to shut him down. Responding to questioning Somali Muslim leader, who wanted him to stop speaking about Jesus, he retorted: “I have a mouth – I need to speak!”
As a Muslim-born follower of Christ and a Kenyan of Somali origin living in among his community, Abdiweli was often confronted by people who did not want to hear his story. That never stopped him from telling it.
Even though an extremist bullet silenced him, his life, passion, courage and conviction continues to speak loudly, encouraging those who knew him to redouble their efforts to take the message of Jesus to those who have not heard. A colleague describes Abdiweli as, “A man who was so passionate for Jesus and for his own people and longed to see them know Christ. Despite numerous death threats over the years, beatings and persecution he did not relent.”
Hostility to conversion often ejected and displaced Christians of Muslim background from their community. Abdiweli persisted on building bridges with his people. I was touched when a taxi driver lamented his death… “This was our only Christian ... did he have to die?” He himself was a Muhammad Zuber, the same clan with Abdiweli’s father whose mother is from Auliahan of the Ogaden clan.
Unwelcome among his people because of his faith, Abdiweli strived to live a love life for and among them. In crisis like famine we had last year or any disaster he often sought aid and distributed food generously to the most vulnerable among his people. Through his efforts several farmers got water pumps for irrigation this aided many to come out of poverty. He was responding to the Lord’s call to good neighborliness; that the person who shows an act of mercy is the real and true neighbor. “One of the Somali elders has told me that he knows that I am a Christian who loves them in spite of our religious differences.” Abdiweli narrated a response to his initiatives.
Now in death he had no place for his remains. He was forced to find burial grounds further a field in Athi River at the YWAM base a group with whom he served. Rev. Abdiweli Ahmed is survived by his wife, Helen, and their three sons.
Rev. Canon Omondi