Somalia: A Country With No State, No Rights, A Disappearing Church

Slowly but steadily, over the past 21 years, the Catholic Church has been disappearing in Somalia, at least in its structures: all Churches and Church buildings have been destroyed.

Only about 100 Somali Catholics remain in the country, and they are dispersed and prohibited from gathering together.

The dramatic situation of Catholics and of the Catholic Church in Somalia is described by Franciscan father Giorgio Bertin, who has been the Bishop of Djibouti for the past ten years, and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu, a diocese which covers the entire territory of Somalia since 1989, when the last Bishop of Mogadishu, (Bishop Pietro Salvatore Colombo OMF) was murdered on July 9 in his Cathedral in Mogadishu.

Speaking to Vatican Radio's Father Moses Hamungole, who is attending the AMECEA Plenary Assembly in Nairobi, Bishop Bertin revealed that his only contacts with the Somali catholics are by telephone as for the last two years he has not able to travel to Central Somalia where most of them live.

Bishop Bertin says he continues to receive many manifestations of support and solidarity, the problem - he says - is the country itself that has been without an effective government - or State - for the past 21 years. So, he continues, the support he asks for is for help to rebuild a State in Somalia, because the rebuilding of a State would mean an effective government, and then probably the possibility for the Church to act more directly and to be openly present.

Bishop Bertin says that during these dark years there have been no less than 15 internationally organized conferences for reconciliation and peace. Unfortunately - he says - up to now, they have not produced what we had hoped. One of the reasons - in his mind -is that there has been a lack of serious committed leadership on the part of the Somalis themselves.

Unfortunately most of the so-called Somali leaders with whom the international community deals with, he points out, are just interested in their own business and affairs. Instead of thinking in a selfless way of the good of the people, they think only of their own personal gain, or of rthe gains of their own clans.

So unless the Somalis themselves express a serious leadership whose interest would be the restoration of the state and the good of their own people, we will not be going far. International troops have been sent in, and the African Union is trying to do something, but bishop Bertin says, there is a lack of serious committment on the part of Somalis.

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