HARGEISA – The Government of the Republic of Somaliland on Thursday reversed its previous decision to allow the reopening of a historic Catholic church in Hargeisa due to pressure from the public.
Somaliland’s Religous Affairs Minister, Sheikh Khalil Abdullahi Ahmed, announced the decision in a press conference, citing pressure from the public and the nation’s religious leaders as the main reason.
“This issue has created a lot of division among Somalilanders, which is not in our national interest,” Sheikh Khalil said.
“The Government of the Republic of Somaliland has decided to respect the wishes of its people and religious leaders and keep the church closed, as it has been for the past 30 years,” Sheikh Khalil said.
“We would also like to clarify that the Government has never entered any agreement with any individual or organization on this issue,” Sheik Khalil added.
Many of Somaliland’s top religious leaders denounced the decision, arguing that the church is part of a broader plan to convert Somalilanders to Christianity.
Mariane Vecchione, an American foreign aid worker volunteering at Edna Adan University hospital, announced last week that she came to Somaliland to volunteer at the hospital, and to work on the reopening of the Catholic church.
Local media outlets are reporting that Vecchione has left the country due to the controversy her statements created.
The Catholic church is one of many churches in Somaliland that were built 70 years ago when Somaliland was a British Protectorate.
This is a developing story. Please check back at The National for more.