Liiban: A Somali Martyr
Liiban: A Somali Martyr
Liibaan Ibraahim Xasan (Liban Ibrahim Hassan) was shot dead in Muqdisho (Mogadishu), apparently because of his Christian activities in the Somali capital.
While growing up, Liibaan had listened to Christian radio broadcasts both in Somali and in English. In 1982, at the age of about 13, he read Sigmund Freud's Dreams, which disturbed him so much that he began to suffer from insomnia. Traditional solutions - visits to sheikhs, reading the Qur'an etc. - did not cure him. An expatriate Christian gave him a New Testament and suggested that he read the first letter of John. During the mid-1980s Liibaan struggled over deep theological and spiritual issues as he read the Bible in Italian and English. He also read Italian devotional books on the epistles of Paul. He prayed for God to show him the right path.
Liibaan became dissatisfied with Islam for a variety of reasons. He wondered why it was necessary always to pray to God in Arabic, a foreign language. He wondered why it was necessary to face Mecca when praying. Ethical issues also troubled him, particularly the fact that the Quran, he believed, sanctioned polygamy and abuse of women.
Finally, in 1985, Liibaan decided that only the Bible could be true and not the Qur'an. He decided that the first thing he must do as a follower of Jesus Christ was to practice humility. (Humility is not normally considered a desirable trait in Somali culture.) Liibaan's friends began to notice a change in him the following year, and he told them about his new faith. In 1990 he sent off for a Somali New Testament. "Please be aware that if you send me [this book] you will be sending me the greatest gift that can be given to a human," he wrote.
In 1992 Liibaan married a young lady from his neighborhood. He also desired baptism and traveled to Ethiopia in order to be baptized. In December 1992 Liibaan's wife decided to join her husband in following Jesus Christ and was baptized.
The civil war in Somalia provided Liibaan with many opportunities to witness. While working in the hospital, medical staff noticed that he had a totally different attitude from the other workers. He did not differentiate between patients based on their clan. He showed sympathy and concern for people; working as a nurse's aide in the operating room was not just a job for Liibaan.
He used to have religious discussions with a sheikh who had been badly wounded. Later, he donated blood for this man, and after the sheikh had recovered Liibaan told him to listen to the Somali Christian radio broadcasts. In due course the sheikh wrote to the radio station to request Christian Scriptures and a correspondence course.
This sheikh was just one of many whose lives were touched by Liibaan. He encouraged numbers of people to study the Scriptures and some of them embraced Christianity. The scattered Christians in Muqdisho met in his home and he pastored them. At the relief agency where he worked, all the workers went to him with their problems. Even the men who guarded the vehicles of the relief agency - battle-hardened veterans of the street fighting of the past four years of civil war - had perceptibly changed through their contact with Liibaan.
Such a bold Christian stance made him notorious in a country which is almost 100% Muslim. In 1993 Islamic radicals criticized his activities in newspaper articles.
On the morning of 21 March 1994, two gunmen were waiting for Liibaan on the sandy road near his office. At 7.30 a.m., as he was walking to work, they ambushed him and shot him at close range. He died a few minutes later.
It is not known who killed him, but it is most likely that the motives were religious. Many Muslims believe that it is their duty to kill an apostate themselves if the state fails to uphold the sharia and that God will reward them for it.
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