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Bishop sees hope for rebuilding Somalia

January 20, 2017

Bishop Giorgio Bertin, the apostolic administrator of Somalia, sees hope for the future of the troubled African county, but argues that the country desperately needs to re-establish its own institutions after more than two decades without a functioning national government.

After years of rule by rival clan warlords, and an aggressive campaign by the Islamic jihadist group al Shabab, a transitional government has begun to expand its control, with help from international peacekeeping forces. Elections are now scheduled for next week, after having been repeatedly postponed.

Bishop Bertin says that Somalia needs not only a new representative government but “the rebirth of state institutions.” He said that the country is still controlled by competing interest groups, including the aid agencies that struggle to provide basic humanitarian needs. That aid is vital, he said. “But we also have to bring those values that one day will mean it’s no longer necessary to bring food aid or medicine, because people will have learned how to live, share, and work together.”

The Catholic presence has virtually disappeared in Somalia, and Bishop Bertin works from offices in Djibouti. But he reports that a Catholic church has been rebuilt and reconsecrated in Hargeisa. Only 10 to 15 Catholics worship there, the bishop reports; all are foreigners, mostly workers from international relief agencies. However, they are no longer in imminent danger because of their faith. “The threat of Islamic extremism is of course always there,” Bishop Bertin says, “but the situation is now relatively safe.”

 
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