Understanding the Somali Church
Ali, Aweis, A.
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Somalia is often described as the most homogenous country in Africa.1 They are said to be homogenous ethnically, religiously, culturally, and linguistically. Somalis take great pride in their heritage and identity as Somalis. An average Somali is expected to know and be concerned for his „tol‟ (immediate and extended family members), to adhere to „xeer‟ (contractual clan obligations), to participate in „qaaraan‟ (communal socio-welfare), to aspire to be „baarri‟ (honoring and respectful to the elders), to preserve the „sharaf‟ (honor) of the family, among other obligations. The religious identity that is prevalent among Somalis today is being a Muslim. If you are a Somali, then the assumption is you are a Muslim. This assumption is so deeply ingrained that the law assumes all Somalis are Muslims; if one claims not to be a Muslim, then their nationality and ethnicity are questioned. In reflection of their Islamic convictions, the Provisional Federal Constitution and the Federal Member State administrations have legislated Islam as the state religion and bar the propagation of any religion other than Isla m.2 This has allowed Islam to be the dominant religious voice for many centuries. As a result of this, the history of Somalis has been told mainly from the perspective of Islam. The prevailing missiological philosophy of engaging Somalis with the gospel has been primarily influenced by the Somalis‟ Muslim heritage. The Islamic worldview is the value- system that an evangelist or a missionary is trained to engage as they prepare to serve among Somalis. The prevailing assumption is that Islam forms the core of who Somalis are, and therefore addressing the Islamic worldview is engaging the Somalis at their core level. At a time when the „buzz word‟ in missiological circles is „movements,‟ a thorough history of God‟s work among Somalis, one of the least-reached people groups, is needed and appropriate. Dr. Aweis took it upon himself to document the history of the Somali church, and I must say there are very few that are qualified to provide us with this history. His experiences as an indigenous believer from southern Somalia, his discipleship and training under the tutelage of SIM and the Church of the Nazarene, and his academic training in missiology make him an authoritative voice on this subject. In this book, he takes us on a quest to understand the Somali church. He gives voice to the internal tension of wanting to be entirely in Christ and be completely Somali. In this book, Aweis opens our eyes and enlightens us on the pre-Islamic Somali heritage. He informs us of the pre-Islamic Somali worldview of God. He introduces us to Waaq, a pre- Islamic deity primarily worshipped by the Cushitic people, and Waaqism, the worship of Waaq. He traces and highlights aspects of this ideology among modern-day Somalis and other Cushitic groups. Aweis‟ discoveries challenge us to re-evaluate our assumptions about the socio-religious identity of Somalis. For instance, training missionaries to competently engage the Somali people must factor in the pre-Islamic Somali legacy and Somalis‟ Judeo- Christian heritage.
SponsorshipSomali Bible Society
Kenya Projects Organization [KENPRO]