Aid to the Church in need

Last Somaliland Church closes

Tue 08 Aug 2017
By Premier Journalist

The only Catholic Church in Somaliland has closed again due to "public pressures", just one week after being officially re-opened.

The restored church, St Anthony of Padua, in the Shaab area of Hargeisa in Somaliland was reopened on the 29th July, after being closed for three decades. It was part of a number of churches built 70 years ago when the region was under Britain's rule.

The church, which is in the region's capital, is said to have closed due to division surrounding its presence.

Somaliland's Religious Affairs Minister, Sheikh Khalil Abdullahi said: "The government has decided to respect the wishes of the people and their religious leaders, and keep the church closed."

The majority of Christians in Somaliland are expats, with a smaller number being Ethiopian immigrants. Somaliland's constitution and Sharia allows foreigners to work and practise their religion in Somaliland.

However, Mr Khalil said: "Our government will not allow any new church to be built."

Bishop of Djibouti and apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, Giorgio Bertin, consecrated the church late last year. He said that the church closed due to the danger Christians face in the Muslim-majority country, and that they would be in danger if identified. As a result, all pastoral work is done secretly.

He told Aid to the Church in Need: "Not many people come to Mass - ten at most.

"But nonetheless, it is important."

He added: "There is no possible way of having a presence in Mogadishu.

"Even if it has to be silently, it is better to be there than not to be there."

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