Catholic Bishop in Mozambique Reports of Mass Exodus as Islamists Attack Villages

Bishop António Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo. Credit: ACN

The Bishop of Mozambique’s Catholic Diocese of Pemba has reported of an “immense crowd” fleeing in despair as jihadists wreak havoc across villages in the embattled Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado.

Bishop António Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo told the Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, that those fleeing are avoiding the “same fate of those who were beheaded or shot” in attacks that have already occurred “in dozens of villages” that were “reduced to ashes” and “where all Christian chapels were destroyed”.

Bishop Juliasse said that in Cabo Delgado's district of Chiúre, the insurgency, which is in its seventh year is causing a new humanitarian tragedy in the region.

In a February 22 ACN report, the Mozambican Catholic Bishop speaks of a “drama of flight”, an “authentic population exodus”.

He says that those fleeing are seeking refuge in the province of Nampula, adjacent to Cabo Delgado.


“We are witnessing the complete flight of these populations, not only those who were targets of jihadist attacks, but also those who fear the proximity of armed groups,” Bishop Juliasse says, and adds, “The populations of villages already reduced to ashes are fleeing, as are the populations of villages that now find themselves at risk of being attacked.”

“Many follow a path that is only certain of the starting point and go in search of a safe place. I don’t know where they will find it… maybe, the least insecure one,” Bishop Juliasse says.

ACN estimates that since the attacks began in Cabo Delgado in October 2017, more than five thousand people have died and more than a million have been forced to flee the violence perpetrated by gangs who claim to belong to Daesh.

In the latest spate of attacks in Chiúre, Bishop Juliasse estimates that a dozen villages, some very populous, were targeted, with the destruction of homes and institutions.

“In these villages, all Christian chapels were destroyed,” he says, and explains, “The highest point so far was the attack on Mazeze, the administrative post of the Chiúre district, with the destruction of so many government public and social infrastructures, as well as our Mission, which provided a lot of social support to the people of the region.”

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As war rages on in other parts of the world, the Catholic Church leader who was appointed Local Ordinary of Pemba Diocese in March 2022, filling the position that had been vacant since February 2021 following the transfer of Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa to the Brazilian Diocese of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, expresses concern that the persecution of Christians in Mozambique is going unreported.

“The biggest risk is that there will be forgotten faces due to other wars in the world”, he says of the victims of Islamist attacks in Cabo Delgado.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of Pemba has asked missionaries from the attacked places, who Bishop Juliasse says have also been displaced, to accompany the fleeing populations and respond to their pastoral needs.

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