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Human Rights Entity in Guinea-Bissau Denounces Threats against Catholic Priest

The flag of Guinea-Bissau. Credit: Shutterstock.com

The leadership of the Guinean Human Rights League (LGDH) has, in a statement, denounced reported threats against a Catholic Priest for allegedly criticizing the country's President, Umaro Sissoco Embaló.

Since January 1, unidentified persons have reportedly issued threats against Fr. Augusto Mutna Tambá, a Priest of Guinea-Bissau’s Bafata Diocese.

The threats to physically harm Fr. Tambá follow the Priest’s faulting of President Embaló for making “disrespectful and very irresponsible statements” remarks against Bishop José Lampra Cà of Bissau Diocese.

In their Friday, January 7 statement, LGDH officials say, “Reverend Father Augusto Mutna Tamba has been the target of several threats following his reaction to the disrespectful and very irresponsible statements made by his Excellency the President of the Republic Umaro Sissoco Embaló to the Most Reverend Bishop of Bissau Dom Lampra Cá.”

“Guinea-Bissau is a country with diversity where there is tolerance and inter-religious dialogue, which serves as an example for many countries in Africa,” LGDH officials further say.

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They continue, “The conduct of the perpetrators of these threats contrasts with the way faith is professed by the different religious congregations that make up the complex social fabric of this country.”

On December 29, after an audience with the Prime Minister, Nuno Nabian, alongside other religious leaders during which the political situation in the West African country was discussed, Bishop Lampra Cà urged political leaders to agree and strengthen the fact that Guinea-Bissau belongs to all Guineans. 

“Guinea-Bissau cannot be happy if its sons and daughters or citizens do not collaborate to develop irreproachable moral behavior and also to assume the responsibility of scrupulously respecting the laws of the country,” the Local Ordinary of Bissau Diocese said.

Reacting to the Catholic Bishop’s remarks, President Embaló is said to have accused the Catholic Church leader for playing politics.

“I don't know if a bishop plays politics. What I do know is that the place of a bishop is in a church and that of the imam in a mosque. If they want to do politics, they can come and join us in the political field,” the President has been quoted as saying.

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President Embaló added, “For me, religious people have no place in the palace of the Republic... If Bishop José Lampra Cà wants to go into politics, he can do so because there are many political groups that would be ready to find him a militant card.”

Fr. Tambá who coordinates the Association of Diocesan Priests in Guinea-Bissau expressed dismay at President Embaló's remarks. He came to the defense of the Bishop of Bissau, recalling the procedure for appointing a Bishop in the Catholic Church and the mission of Catholic Bishops.

“If imams, priests and pastors have to stay in their mosques, churches and temples, what is an imam doing in the Council of State?” the Priest posed.

Fr. Tambá reportedly abandoned his planned January 6 trip to Bissau following the threats.

In their January 6 statement, LGDH officials note that in a democracy, “nothing prevents religious leaders, as a moral reserve and source of spiritual inspiration, from calling the attention of the political class.”

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LGDH leadership has called on the Public Ministry in Guinea Bissau to urgently “open an enquiry to find out who are the authors of the threats against Father Mutna Tambá, to whom it expresses solidarity, as well as to the Bishop of Bissau and the Catholic Church in Guinea-Bissau.”