HARGEISA – Somaliland’s Religous Affairs Minister, Sheikh Khalil Abdullahi Ahmed, held a press conference on Sunday clarifying the Government’s stance on the re-opening of a Catholic church in Hargeisa that has been closed for more than three decades.
According to Sheikh Khalil’s statement, the Government of the Republic of Somaliland has no problems with the reopening of churches that already exist in Somaliland.
“Somaliland has a constitution based on Islam. The Constitution doesn’t allow any religion other than Islam to be promoted in Somaliland nor does it allow any Somalilander to change their religion. Somaliland’s constitution and Sharia law allows foreigners to work in Somaliland and to practice their religion privately. Contrary to recent reports, there is no new church in Hargeisa. Our government will not allow any new church to be built in Somaliland,” Sheikh Khalil said.
“Many people are getting worked up about this issue because of a false statement made by a foreign woman working in Somaliland, during a recent event at Alpha University. She claimed that the Government gave her permission to construct a new church in Somaliland, when in fact we did not grant her any permission. We have sent her a letter warning to her refrain from spreading false statements,” Sheikh Khalil added.
The female Sheikh Khalil is referring to, Marriane Vecchione works as a volunteer at a local Hargeisa Hospital. Vecchione’s public announcement has triggered mixed responses from Somalilanders across the country.
Many Somalilanders argue that foreigners in Somaliland should be given the right to practice their religion privately. Others fear that foreigners working in Somaliland could go beyond that and use the church to spread their beliefs.
This is a developing story. Please check back at The National for more.