(Photo courtesy Assist News)
Somalia (MNN) -- Al-Shabaab threats against North American shopping malls have garnered world attention.
On Saturday, al-Shabaab released a video threatening some of North America's most-populous shopping centers, including Alberta's West Edmonton Mall and Minnesota's Mall of America.
Some analysts dismiss the video's warning because al-Shabaab lacks the resources and manpower to launch an attack of this measure. However, al-Shabaab threats of this type shouldn't be taken lightly.
"Al-Shabaab means 'The Youth' or 'The Youngsters.' They're a group that [is] very brutal, when it comes to, especially, Christians," explains Voice of the Martyrs Canada
spokesman Greg Musselman.
Who is al-Shabaab?
Smoke rising from the Westgate Mall area in Nairobi, Kenya, after the September 2013 attacks and rescue efforts.
(Photo, caption courtesy Kul Wadhwa via Wikimedia Commons)
While they gained the world's attention with their 2013 attack in Kenya,
al-Shabaab has largely taken a backseat to groups like ISIS and Boko Haram.
In 2006, the group emerged as a radical Islamic youth wing and has since claimed allegiance with al-Qaeda. According to BBC News' profile
, al-Shabaab threats have mainly centered on neighboring Kenya.
"This is a group that has been able to function because of the dysfunction in their own country," Musselman states.
"[Somalia is] known as a failed country and a country of chaos."
It's also the world's second-biggest persecutor of Christians, according to the Open Doors USA World Watch List.
VOM Canada states on its Web site that al-Shabaab threats are specifically aimed at believers: "al- Shabab has vowed to eradicate all Somali Christians, and they have especially targeted converts from Islam
Learn more about Somalia's "hidden Church" here.
"It has been a very difficult place, a horrible place, for Christians, who have to be very careful and secretive," notes Musselman.
When people find out their family member has become a Christian, "they will alert the al-Shabaab; and in many cases, these Christians are publicly executed."
There's danger for Christians around every corner in Somalia, but there's also hope.
Who is helping Somali Christians?
(Graphic courtesy VOM Canada)
Working through their partners in neighboring nations like Ethiopia, VOM Canada is able to support Somalian believers with spiritual and physical resources. They also support "safe-houses" where persecuted Christians can find refuge.
Watch the testimony of a Somali Christian who was saved from al-Shabaab soldiers.
Pray for encouragement and strength for the Christians remaining in Somalia, as well as for those who have been forced to leave their homes. Ask the Lord to encourage and embolden Somali converts, who often struggle greatly when cast out of their family and clan.