Thursday, 31 July 2014

The difficulty of being a Christian in Somalia: A reflection from the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu

Interior of the now ruined Cathedral in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu

The following article is taken from the AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa) News blog and can be read from its original source here. Please pray for the Church in Somalia and for the courageous Christians and Clergy that struggle to bring the love of Christ to the peoples of Somalia.

"Whenever Bishop Giorgio Bertin, O.F.M. makes a visit to Somalia where he serves as an Apostolic Administrator, he has to conceal his identity as a Christian and a Catholic Bishop in order to be safe. 

'When I go there, I don’t put any external sign that I am a Catholic Bishop or a Christian because it is too dangerous,' he said. He said that despite the grim picture, there is hope as many Somalis who lived in the diaspora are slowly returning home and are ready to help in the rebuilding of their country.

Bishop Bertin was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu which covers the whole country upon the assassination of Bishop Pietro Salvatore Colombo, O.F.M. 25 years ago on 9th July, 1989 at the Cathedral of Mogadishu.

'Exactly a year and a half after the murder of Bishop Colombo, the civil war broke out in the whole country towards the end of 1990 and, as a consequence, everything was destroyed,' he said.

Somalia, a largely Muslim country had around 2000 Catholics by the time the state collapsed and the presence of the Church was seen through the work of religious sisters in hospitals and also through the activities of Caritas Somalia.

The Bishop stayed in Kenya for about ten years from January 1991 up to May 2001 and he continued to provide humanitarian services through Caritas Somalia which was collaborating with some local organizations.

Also while in Kenya the Bishop said he was involved in production of some books in the Somali language and a Somali radio program broadcasted by Vatican Radio from Rome. The program which airs 12 minutes on Saturday and Sunday is addressed to the horn of Africa.

He explains that the biggest challenge in Somalia is a lack of the state and this has adversely affected the country. The drought that hit Eastern Africa was worse in Somalia. 'It was particularly dramatic in Somalia because there was no state nor institutions that would have led humanitarian response,' he said.

The Bishop said that from time to time he makes a visit to Somalia to assess the situation. 'Last time I went was in the beginning of June 2014 and I met with the speaker of the parliament and the Prime Minister,' he said.

'My intention is to renew a permanent presence of the Church in Somalia, therefore whenever I go to Somalia I meet with the political leaders to dialogue. But unless there is a governing state and security,  it is not possible for us to return in a permanent way.'"

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