The Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu, Mgr Bertin, has returned to Somalia for a day or so, after years of forced absence. Despite the fighting, there’s still a ray of hope for the few faithful that remain in the country.
- Vatican Insider
'I returned to old Mogadishu on 3 August. In the hotel I stayed in there were lots of guests, including Somalis, who spoke to me in Italian. There were still a few days to go before the end of Ramadan but the cook still prepared lunch for me, despite the fact he and his family were fasting.'
Mgr Giorgio Bertin is Bishop of Gibuti and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu and was only able to return a number of times to Somalia and Somaliland in the north, this year. He met with ministers and government officials, but also with ordinary people ('and even some Catholics,' he stressed).
'I found the people of Mogadishu welcoming; they are a tolerant people. But the situation is not easy. Especially due to the fact fundamentalists exploit ignorance.' Mgr. Bertin was referring to the Islamist al-Shabaab militia, extremists who have had the country wrapped around their little fingers for a number of years, imposing the most obscurantist form of Islamic Sharia law on the population.
Now fundamentalists have been defeated and kicked out of Mogadishu and from various other parts of Somalia. But they still wield considerable power and influence over the population, particularly as there is fear they will strike again. In Somaliland for example.
'I have still not found anyone in the Somaliland government in Hargheisa who is willing to talk.' Maybe they are scared of another al-Shabaab attack. The group may want to punish a government seen as being too obliging towards Christians. 'Now that Somalia has a new government, initial contacts in Mogadishu have been positive.'
The Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu would like to open a place of worship in the capital, particularly for the expatriates that work there. And in Argheisa, the only church in this far-flung corner of the Horn of Africa has been open for a year or so.
Photo: Msgr Bertin and two others in front of Mogadishu Cathedral