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Catholic World News News Feature

Former Somali government killed bishop, Christians charge July 16, 2003

Somali Christian leaders have charged that Bishop Salvatore Colombo of Mogadishu, was killed in cold blood 12 years ago, at the order of the former government of President Siad Barre.

Members of the Somali Christian Community made the disclosure during a meeting of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference, being held in Nairobi, Kenya. The Christian representatives, who are still fighting for recognition as the talks that have brought together leaders of Somalia's many conflicting factions, told CWN that Bishop Colombo was killed after defying the Barre government on the purchase of land for an impoverished tribe.

The bishop had purchased land for a group called the Jererweyne, reported John Abukar Muktar, a Catholic and vice chairman of Somali Christian Community. Muktar added that after buying the land, the bishop "built 300 family houses& dug wells, built schools and hospitals." The government apparently felt threatened by the bishop's sponsorship of the group.

The Barre government, according to the Somali Christian Community, "sent a group of men to the cathedral" to carry out the execution of the bishop. After killing him, they "went to report to the president," the group stated. Although the Somali government later set a reward for information about the bishop's death, no suspects have ever been charged for the crime. Christian leaders believe that the Barre government never launched a serious investigation.

Long after the fall of the Barre government, through a ten-year period of chaos in which Somalian society has been conducted by a group of rival warlords, Christians remain concerned about their security, the group said. In a formal statement released in Nairobi, they remarked: "Somali Christian continues to live in great fear and threats of death by those who killed the bishop and the other Somali Christian leaders." The group observed that 7 Catholic bishops in Somalia, and another 300 lay Christians, have been killed by Islamic extremists.

The Christian group is battling for recognition at the Nairobi conference, against Muslim delegates who contend that there is no Christian presence in the country. The Christians point out that the seven Catholic dioceses of Somali are still in existence, with Church institutions still in operation. "WE are running hospitals and schools, with no support at all," said one spokesman. "We have been poor; we have lacked support. But we want the world to know that there are Christians in Somalia."

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