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Somali Refugees Prepare to Spread Hope

June 5th, 2012

A team of refugees from war-wracked Somalia will begin training this summer to translate and broadcast messages of gospel-based hope to their compatriots back home or scattered around the world.

Six Somali women living as refugees in neighboring Ethiopia will begin training with three staff members of Project Hannah, a worldwide ministry geared toward “meeting the needs of the whole woman with practical advice, spiritual guidance and an international prayer movement.” The effort is being launched on faith, and organizers are seeking donations so the project can be fully implemented. 

Civil war and the resulting social and political chaos have driven huge numbers of Somalis to far-flung destinations, not only in surrounding nations but also in Minneapolis, Minn., Columbus, Ohio, and Nashville, Tenn., homes to the some of the largest concentrations of Somali refugees in the United States. Ruth Mbennah, the Africa coordinator for Project Hannah, said refugees still in East Africa are often in danger and many have lost hope.

A letter from a Somali woman crystallizes the horrors they face.

“She was explaining how she was very much hurt because in the refugee camps they don’t have food,” Mbennah said. “So she was going to look for food, and she left her girls in the tent. And she went to look for food a long time, many hours, and she came back with very little. When she was coming back, she found her daughters had been raped by soldiers. So those are the shocking stories we hear from all over Africa, especially the ones that have war like Somalia.”

An arm of TWR, Project Hannah broadcasts its Women of Hope program in 59 languages, but the number keeps growing as languages such as Somali and Farsi prepare to join the ranks. Using a friend-to-friend presentation style, each program offers listeners a life message and a soul message focusing on a common theme, from nutrition to mediating arguments to sexual abuse – even basic CPR.

Because broadcasting of Christian programming is not allowed in Somalia, Women of Hope will originate outside the country and focus first on refugees. Of course, radio waves are no respecters of political borders, so Somalis in the homeland are expected to listen in, as well, leading to the second stage of Project Hannah’s outreach – the formation of prayer groups.  

“Once the Women of Hope program is on air, we will identify one person who will be receiving feedback,” Mbennah said. “And once we receive feedback, we can direct listeners where to meet and pray secretly.”

As it has done with other languages, Project Hannah is stepping out on faith but needs to raise funds to cover the cost of ongoing production and air time for the program. 

“You’ll find that most of our teams, their life is very poor where they live,” said Mbennah, who will join the team of trainers. “And when you talk about bringing them together and being trained, we can support them with the little funds that we have. But keeping them together and focused on their programs and coming together to record the programs is very hard because we don’t have the funds to do that.”

You can learn more about how you can support Project Hannah's work in Somalia and around the world, visit www.projecthannah.org/give.html.

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