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Bishop Giorgio Bertin O.F.M., the Bishop of Djibouti and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu Bishop Giorgio Bertin O.F.M., the Bishop of Djibouti and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu  

The Catholic Church’s presence in Djibouti.

The Catholic Church has been present in Djibouti since 1885, with the arrival of the first French Capuchin missionaries. The number of Catholics, in the country, today is roughly between five and seven thousand.

Vatican News English Africa Service – Vatican City.

According the Bishop of Djibouti and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu (Somalia), Giorgio Bertin O.F.M, the Christian community in Djibouti is composed mainly of foreigners.

An apostolate of presence

While respecting religious differences between Muslims and Christians, the Catholic Church in Djibouti works primarily through its humanitarian arm, Caritas Djibouti.

Caritas Djibouti contributes to emergency humanitarian aid, combats food shortages, climate change and the dire consequences of conflicts and natural disasters in neighbouring countries like Somalia and Ethiopia. The organisation is also involved in education, healthcare and support to street children and migrants.

Sister Simona Brambilla, Superior General of the Consolata Missionaries (IMC), a religious congregation working in Djibouti since 2004, recently told Agenzia Fides about their work in Djibouti.

“It is a small, fragile Church, but strong in the light of the Gospel. A Gospel that cannot be announced verbally, since it is an Islamic country, but our faith is lived. Certainly, the Christians and the Sisters who live there are few, but they are a significant presence,” she said.

Caring for children with disabilities,

A flagship project of the Church in Djibouti has been that of caring for children with disabilities.

Out of this Apostolate by the Church, a state agency was born that is now responsible for the care of people living with disabilities. Speaking about the project, “École pour tous,” Sr. Anna Bacchion IMC, a religious sister living in Djibouti since 2004, shared her experience with Agenzia Fides.

“In 2013, an inclusive school for physically and mentally disabled children began. This project was conceived and implemented by the Church of Djibouti. After years of intense work, several children have been admitted to public and private primary schools. Their families have understood the importance of this school. Before that, because they were disabled, the children remained locked up, hidden in their homes. Now they are free and sure of themselves, because, like other children, they know how to read and write. Our children leave this school with the conviction that they are as capable as any other child. This project began as a small seed but has now developed and been adopted by the Government. The Government wants to extend the programme to all schools to facilitate the insertion of disabled children in public schools,” explained Sr. Anna.

Worked as a missionary in Libya

Previously Sr Anna was a missionary in Libya, another majority Muslim country. She describes her experiences in both countries as positive and enlightening.

“In Djibouti, since 2004, I started a simple dialogue, a dialogue that silences itself in order to listen, trying to enhance the good present in the other person, a dialogue that emanates from the fragrance of Christ. I did not find it difficult to engage with the poor in villages and generally with adults. The people believe, pray, celebrate festivities, rejoice, suffer and often only want to share closely with us their joys and their difficulties,” Sr Anna said.

Africa’s gateway to the Red Sea

Djibouti shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and southwest, and Somalia to the south. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa, with 23 200 Square kilometres and a population estimated at about 990 000. It primarily has a subtropical desert climate.

The strength of Djibouti lies in its strategic location as an entrance to the Red Sea. This makes it one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes endowed with a state-of-the-art port complex.

15 December 2021, 19:07