SOMALIA -- Somalia's Islamist terror group al Shabab wants to rid the Muslim country of all Christians and is specifically targeting Christian converts from Islam.
Al Shabab recently joined with al Qaeda and wants Sharia law implemented in the country.
An al Shabab video that swept the Internet in September 2008 shows the brutal beheading of 25-year-old aid worker Mansour Mohammed. His crime? Mohammed converted to Christianity in 2005.
One year ago, a Muslim convert to Christianity was awakened in his home by al Shabab soldiers. CBN News agreed to protect his identity, giving him the name "Abdi."
"They ransacked my house, searched my bag, and found several pages from a Bible," he told CBN News. "They had crosses on them."
Abdi was taken away, imprisoned, and tortured.
"I was blindfolded and they put me in a dark, underground cell. They beat me up with a wooden baton," he explained.
"They wanted to know where I got the Bible pages and if I knew of any others like me," he continued. "When they finally took the blindfold off, I noticed three dead bodies in the room. They placed them there just to frighten me."
Abdi's torturers said they were going to kill him. But late one night, he and two cellmates made a daring escape.
"The guards thought they had locked our cell door, but it wasn't locked. We opened it, ran to the wall, and started climbing," Abdi recalled. "The guards opened fire on us. Bullets killed one of my cellmates, but the other prisoner and I jumped over the wall."
Abdi reunited with his family and is now living in a safe place. He said he still suffers physical pain from the torture he endured. But spiritually, he said he feels closer to God.
"I was happy to go through all this because now I am stronger spiritually," Abdi said. "People prayed for me to escape. Their prayers are what saved my life."
Somali Christian leaders estimate fewer than 200 Christians exist in this country of 10 million.
Secret believers, like one woman who asked that we call her Fozia, often suffer punishment and humiliation for refusing to conform to Islamic law.
Fozia said as a Christian, she could not bring herself to abide by al Shabab's requirement that women wear a burka. While Fozia dressed modestly, she did not want her face fully covered.
Al Shabab Sharia police, similar to those seen on patrol in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, noticed Fozia walking in public without a burka.
"They said the clothing I was wearing was unacceptable. They said I was naked," she explained.
Fozia received a public flogging -- 30 lashes -- as her punishment. Afterwards, she inched her way home despite debilitating injuries.
She told CBN News that a female neighbor came to her house to wash her wounds.
"I was bleeding; my flesh was peeling," Fozia recalled. "It was extremely painful."
Fozia said it is too risky to own a Bible, so she listens to nightly Christian radio broadcasts from neighboring Kenya.
Fozia found refuge at the home of a Christian friend in another Somali city. But what happens to other Somali Christians when their lives are threatened for leaving Islam?
Some are receiving help from an American mission group. CBN News traveled to a secret Christian safe house sponsored by Voice of the Martyrs.
It's located in the Horn of Africa. The exact location cannot be revealed to avoid endangering the lives of the former Muslims who live there.
At the safe house, Somali Christians gather for a time of worship and Bible study. It not only gives former Muslims a place to eat and sleep, it provides them with spiritual fellowship and discipleship.
The house is run by mature believers who host no more than two people at a time. Eventually, it will help these temporary residents transition to life on their own.
Basmah was seven months pregnant when her Muslim husband divorced her. With nowhere to go, she returned to her mother's house, where she delivered her baby.
But when Basmah's family discovered she had become a Christian, her stepfather kicked her out of the house.
"He said I was infecting the entire household and he threatened to kill me if I didn't leave," she told CBN News.
She was forced to live on the street with her infant until a VOM worker met her and offered her refuge at the safe house.
"I was praying that God would give me a house where I could sleep," Basmah said. "This is a very good house, a house of worship, a house of God. He answered my prayers."
Pray for Endurance
Fozia and other Somali Christians are praying for a better life -- one free from the oppression of al Shabab and other Islamists.
"Pray that we Somali believers will live our lives closer to the kingdom of God," Fozia asked. "Pray that we will endure the weight of life in this Islamic nation."