Somalis and Somali Bantu Muslims

Quick Facts

Place of Origin:  Somalia is a sovereign country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, and Kenya to the southwest.
Population:  12 million (July 2020 estimate)
Primary Languages:  Somali, Maay, and Baraawe, also known as Chiminii.
Secondary Languages:  Arabic, English
Ethnic groups:  Somali 85% , Bantu and Other 15%.
Religion:  Sunni Muslim (and Sufi for a very small minority of Somalis).

When did Somalis first come to Canada?

During Siad Barre's military rule (1980-1990) many Somalis fled persecution in their homeland. The flight of Somalis to Canada began in the late 1970s.
Throughout Canada, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has the largest Somali presence.

Where do Somalis predominantly gather in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)?

The highest density of Somalis is approximately 22,000 located in Etobicoke (20 km West-Northwest of downtown Toronto). The overwhelming majority of 2016 census respondents in Toronto who said they speak Somali live in central Etobicoke in the Weston and Lawrence area, the  Kingsview-Village-The Westway neighbourhood south of Highway 401, north of The Westway and St. Phillips Road, as well as in the Etobicoke neighbourhoods of Mount Olive-Silverstone-Jamestown, Islington-City Centre West, Elms-Old Rexdale, and Willowridge-Martingrove-Richview. Somalis in the GTA also live in Brampton, York University Heights, Willowdale, and Scarborough.
Population estimate in the GTA:  80,000+ Somalis (including 6,000 Bantus)
Map of the Greater Toronto Area highlighting areas of Somali presence in red.
Image of the Somalia flag (left) blending into the Canadian flag (right) in the middle.

What are Somalis' lives like?

  • High rate of unemployment (30-40%) and low-income causes many to struggle to meet basic life needs.
  • Language fluency causes many to struggle in finding skilled employment.
  • Lack of “Canadian work experience” makes it difficult to secure employment
  • Rise of the crime rate among Somali youth culture.
  • Extremely proud of their heritage, but they struggle with a sense of shame due to what has happened in their country the past 30 years and continued negative news coming out of Somalia.
  • Somalis, once they become friends with you, are very warm and hospitable.
  • The Somali women are especially communal; a sense of overall community is very important to the Somalis, and they tend to insulate themselves in many ways to non-Somalis.
  • Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque (16 Bethridge Road in Etobicoke) is Somalis’ main mosque in the GTA.

What do Somalis believe?

  • 99% of Somalis are followers of Sunni Islam with a very small portion embracing Sufism.
  • Only 0.03% of the Somali population worldview openly confesses Jesus as Lord.
  • 99.6% of the residents of Somali identify as Muslims; Somalia is one of the most Muslim countries on the planet.
  • Some Somalis, especially Bantus, practice an Islam mixed with traditional animistic practices. This means that they will go to great lengths and expense to be delivered from evil spirits.
  • Do not assume that all Muslims have the same beliefs and practices. It is estimated there up to 73 distinct schools or expressions of Islam, including Sunni and Sufi expressions of Somalis.
  • Ask Somalis to share their beliefs and practices with you; listen to them to see where God may be already in conversation with them and join that conversation with the good news as relationship and time allow.

for Somalis in the GTA

  • To our knowledge there is no indigenous Somali church in the GTA. Pray that Somali disciples be made so that a Somali church community appears.
  • Pray for the 50+ Somali believers living in the GTA that they will be faithful disciples and witness to their extended families & community.
  • Pray for trusting relationships and friendship between followers of Jesus and Somalis.
  • Pray for followers of Jesus to open their homes in a ministry of hospitality and safety for Somalis
  • Lord, raise up labourers among Somalis in the GTA to share the gospel, disciple believers, and start churches.
  • Lord, help existing Christians become more aware of Somalis in their community. Help Christians overcome fear, self interest, and negative thoughts toward Somalis.
  • May these Christians learn to effectively communicate the gospel using existing resources in the Somali language.
  • Lord, lead Christians to Somalis who are searching for Jesus. Lord, lead churches in Etobicoke to pray for, and minister among, the Somali community.

Prayer Resources

Urban Research Assisting Churches is a website that seeks to provide an accessible online portal for receiving and sharing tools, information, expertise, and resources related to engaging and embracing the diverse peoples of Canada. Click the Ureach Toronto Logo for more resources on Somalis and Somali Bantu Muslims.
Prayercast is a website dedicated to activating prayer around the world.
For prayer resources on Somali peoples, click the Prayercast logo.