Becoming ready to lose one’s own life : a grounded theory study of former Muslim Somali Christian converts in the United Kingdom and Sweden

  • Matyas Bodi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Christians are a stigmatised and vulnerable segment of Somali society in both the Horn of Africa and in the diaspora. Their situation is extremely under-researched. This study provides an original theory of religious conversion and decision-making among Somalis from a Sunni Muslim background living in the United Kingdom and Sweden, the two largest Somali communities in Europe. The theory seeks to explain dominant behavioural patterns of conversion to evangelical Protestant Christianity and the disclosure of this faith to Muslim relatives and friends. The research is based on the analysis of interviews conducted with Somali Christians and missionaries working with Somalis, as well as literature related to the topic. Classic grounded theory methodology was applied in its entirety, including simultaneous data collection and analysis, constant comparison, theoretical sampling, memo-writing, open coding, selective coding, theoretical coding, and manual sorting of memos. This resulted in a theory emerging: becoming ready to lose one’s own life. The theory covers a process that takes place in three types of awareness contexts (concealed, suspicious, and open) and consists of six stages (Muslim, secretly irreligious, secretly Christian, openly irreligious, Christian but considered irreligious, and openly Christian). The study details the relevant personal factors, incentives and deterrents, possible reactions to psychological discomfort, pressure from members of the Muslim community, and possible reactions to this pressure. The theory’s components are illustrated with quotations from the interview transcripts. This work is an original contribution to the fields of conversion studies, missiology, Somali studies, and world Christianity.
Date of Award30 Nov 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorMario I Aguilar (Supervisor) & N. T. Wright (Supervisor)


  • Religious conversion
  • Religious change
  • Leaving Islam
  • Apostasy
  • Conversion to Christianity
  • Conversion from Islam to Christianity
  • Persecution
  • Former Muslim
  • Ex-Muslim
  • Somali
  • Somali diaspora
  • Somali Christian
  • Christianity in Somalia
  • Somalia
  • Conversion theory
  • Grounded theory
  • World Christianity

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  • Full text embargoed until
  • 3rd November 2025

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