A pastor running an underground church and a care center in the Somali capital of Mogadishu has said that the number of orphans is increasing as Islamic extremist groups continue to kill Christians for their faith.
An unnamed underground church leader, who started the care center three years ago, said that he has taken in children of families killed by the terror group Al-Shabaab, but he does not have enough resources to take care of them.
"Last year we lost a Christian family killed by the Al Shabaab, and the number of children rose from 30 to 35," the pastor said, according to Morning Star News.
"The Al Shabaab are now hunting down the children in Mogadishu, and we have moved the care center to a bit safer location," he added.
The pastor noted that the children appear malnourished and are crying out for food, so he is calling on other Christians in other parts of the world to help the persecuted orphans.
He further noted that the orphans have received little support from the underground Christian community in Somalia, and their needs are increasing because some of them are now attending school.
"If we can get at least $1,000 dollars a month, that will really lighten our burden. Please pray for the future of the Somalia underground church. The orphaned children will form the future of Somalia's underground church," he pleaded.
Somalia has been listed by persecution watchdog group Open Doors as the third most dangerous country to be a Christian in the 2018 World Watch List.
According to the organization, the two main sources of persecutions for Christians in Somalia, where all citizens are expected to be Muslims, are the militant group al-Shabaab and the country's tribal system.
Al-Shabaab reportedly threatens sheiks and imams with expulsion or death to force them to promote jihad. As a result, imams in mosques and madrasas comply with al-Shabaab's leadership in declaring that there is no room for churches, Christianity of Christians in Somalia.
Militants in Somalia regard Christians as high-value targets and they are often killed on the spot upon discovery.
Apart from Islamic extremists, Christians also face persecution form their families and the community at large. Somalis often face harassment, intimidation and even death if their family members and clan leaders suspect them of converting to Christianity.
The U.S. State Department's latest Report on International Religious Freedom noted that Muslims are not explicitly prohibited from converting to other faiths under the country's Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC), but leaving the faith remains socially unacceptable in all areas.