Calling his martyrdom “one of the most dramatic and powerful witnesses for Christ in the 20th century”, Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley unveiled a commemorative plaque on the ministry’s Martyr’s Timeline for martyred Somali evangelist Abdiwelli Ahmed. Voice of the Martyrs Korea also released a free dramatized short video of his life and martyrdom for Christians to use in connection with International Martyrs’ Day. The events took place at a press conference at the ministry’s office in Seoul on Tuesday.
“According to church tradition, June 29 marks the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul, so Christians around the world take time that week to honor the legacy of those who have sacrificed their lives for the advancement of the gospel,” said Representative Foley. This year her organization is honoring Abdiwelli, who was martyred in Kenya on February 27, 2013.
“Abdiwelli’s name and story is famous among Somali Christians, yet he is virtually unknown to Christians in the rest of the world. We want to change that on this International Martyrs’ Day,” said Representative Foley.
Abdiwelli descended from a long line of devout Muslims from Somalia. “Somalis tell us that to be Somali means to be Muslim,” according to Representative Foley. But in 1993, while in college, Abdiwelli began questioning Islam and comparing the Quran to the Bible.
“The more Abdiwelli read the Bible, the more he treasured what he read,” said Representative Foley. “After discussions with a Christian friend, he put his trust in Jesus Christ.” According to Representative Foley, when other students and faculty learned that he had left Islam, they considered Abdiwelli dangerous to their faith.
“I was beaten up,” Abdiwelli told Voice of the Martyrs before his martyrdom. “All sorts of bad things were done to me. My life was in danger.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea commemorated the life of martyred Somali evangelist Abdiwelli Ahmed at a press conference held at the ministry’s office in Seoul on Tuesday.
Eventually, he sought guidance from a relative, Pastor Ibrahim, who had years of experience sharing the gospel with Somali Muslims. Ibrahim took Abdiwelli to a campus ministry center, where he met and eventually married a woman from Nigeria named Helen.
Helen told Voice of the Martyrs, “When I first met Abdiwelli, he told me, ‘I love the Lord and I’m ready to die for Christ.’”
Eventually, the two married and served the Somali people through an agriculture-development ministry and boldly shared the gospel with them.
“When we received death threats, we’d pray together and that would give us peace, because God said he would be with us,” Helen told Voice of the Martyrs. Pastor Ibrahim, Abdiwelli’s mentor, told Voice of the Martrys that Abdiwelli was “a fearless evangelist”.
Abdiwelli and his family
At noon on Feb. 7, 2013, 20 years after Abdiwelli placed his faith in Christ, three assassins sent from Somali shot him to death as he talked with a pastor in the center of the town in Kenya where he and Helen were living and ministering with their three sons.
Despite her loss, Helen said she knew God would use her husband’s martyrdom to advance his kingdom. “We have a triumphant God,” Helen told Voice of the Martyrs. “We know God is going to triumph in this situation.”
Today, Helen and her three sons continue to reach out to Somali Muslims. “We should never stop reaching out to the lost and dying world until Christ comes,” she told Voice of the Martyrs Korea. “A friend of mine who is afraid to go to the northeast told me to be careful. I told her, ‘If I try saving my life, I will lose it.’”
According to Representative Foley, International Martyrs’ Day is a good opportunity for churches around the world to learn to pray and speak more knowledgeably about the situation of today’s Christian martyrs.
Pastor and Dr. Foley place a new plaque on the VOMK Martyrs Timeline commemorating martyred Somali evangelist Abdiwelli Ahmed.
“Most Christians around the world have a general awareness that Christians in the Middle East and parts of Africa are facing severe persecution today, but they really don’t know what that looks like or how it happens,” said Representative Foley. She said that is why her organization held the press conference and why it created the dramatized video about Abdiwelli’s ministry and martyrdom. “It’s a short video which is having a life-changing impact on those who watch it. The video encourages them in their own faith while also equipping them to pray more knowledgeably, passionately, and frequently for today’s persecuted Christians. I hope all churches will show the video in commemoration of International Martyrs’ Day.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s video on Abdiwelli for International Martyrs’ Day is available for free at www.vomkorea.com/en/dotcm.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s previous honorees on International Martyrs’ Day include Colombian lay evangelist Rocio Pino, who was martyred on March 6, 2011 by the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; North Korean underground Christian Cha Deok Sun, who was martyred between 2005-2010; and the so-called “Unknown Martyrs of Communism”: Christians who died under communist rule from 1921 to the present, which Voice of the Martyrs Korea and other analysts estimate to be between 25 to 30 million people.