Global Ambassador’s visit to Mogadishu
Mogadishu, one of the most lawless cities in the world was visited by Brian C Stiller, Global Ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance just days after the African Union forces repelled Al-Shabaab from the city.
Stiller set to visit this war torn city with a simple message to its people and government: Christians care about famine overtaking Somalians. Days into his new appointment, while watching evening news of the unfolding human tragedy inEastern Africa, he told his wife, “I must go; even to show Somalians we care.” Recalling the story of Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout who three years earlier was held captivity for 15 months, he decided to go.
Remarkably he was connected to those who provided protection and was introduced to senior officials. He learned of security issues on the ground and visited refugee camps, seeing first hand the amazing absence of aid agencies and the encroaching famine.
“When I arrived in Mogadishu it was something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’ve been in some devastating landscapes but these streets were of a different state, bombed out buildings and shattered marketplaces, disorder in all directions,” he noted. Aware that Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout three years earlier has been freed after 15 months being snatched by gunmen in Somalia and held for ransom under “extremely oppressive” conditions that included torture and beatings, Stiller reasoned that at least the airpot was secured.
Earlier the Australian High Commissioner had warned Stiller of the dangers of going into the city. Even so he felt it was time to press the case and by simply showing up.
Somalia bordering the Indian Ocean, has since 1991—when the Siad Barre regime fell—been gripped by lawlessness. Al-Shabaab, a co-conspirator with Al-Qaeda took power in much of the country. While Al-Shabaab was draconian in their administration of strict Islamic laws, they provided citizens some forms of social stability. They forced Christian aid groups out of the country and charged outrageous fees for aid groups, who remained, for setting operations in refugee camps. The famine upset the power balance and eventually they were forced from Mogadishu, pushed by the Africa Union troops who secured the airport and most of the city in early August. Even so Christian aid groups were not yet invited to return.
Traveling with Aiah Foday-Khabenje, General Secretary of the Association of African Evangelicals, a senior government official looked at Stiller and said, “I thought Canadians were cowards.” “Why,” Stiller asked. “Because they only come to Kenyaand won’t come to Mogadishu. You are
the first Canadian I’ve seen in years. Thank you for coming,” was the response. Amazed he would come without an agenda or means of protection, he was nicknamed Brian, the crazy Canadian.