Locals in Mozambique Tell Stories of Christians Killed for their Faith: “They are our martyrs”

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM) with Priests and Religious serving in Nampula Archdiocese. Credit: Nacala Diocese

Parishioners of Chipene in Nampula, a province that is experiencing insurgency in northern Mozambique have recounted stories of members of the parish and other Christians in the province who were killed by Islamists for refusing to denounce their faith.

Speaking with Bishops in Mozambique who visited that parish that has been experiencing insurgency that started in neighboring Cabo Delgado province in 2018, the parishioners who did not give their names for security reasons said Christians in Mozambique have undergone horrible persecution, and that those killed are the country’s martyrs.

They recounted the murder of Sr. Maria De Coppi, an Italian Comboni missionary sister, a Catechist at the parish, and several Christians who they described as “witnesses” to the faith.

Among those killed was Francisco Massaya who met his death at the foot of the chapel, a man named Silvano Valentim who courageously confessed that he was a Christian before he was beheaded, and another named Celestino Santos Mitupiya who was a Catechist.

“Since these men and others who we have previously mentioned were killed in hatred of the faith, we believe that they are our martyrs who did not refuse to bear witness to their faith and courageously gave their lives,” read the statement that a parishioner read to the Bishops who visited that Catholic community on June 2.


Members of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM) paid a solidarity visit to the Catholic Archdiocese of Nampula where they listened to horrible stories of Christian persecution in the country.

The CEM delegation that visited Chipene Parish for the installation of their new Parish Priest included: Archbishop Inácio Saúre, Archbishop of Nampula and CEM President, Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna of Beira Archdiocese, Bishop Alberto Vera Aréjula of Nacala Diocese and Bishop Osório Citora Afonso, Auxiliary Bishop of Maputo Archdiocese.

The parishioners spoke of persecution in the entire Southern African country, saying, “Christians in particular and the people in general have not had a peaceful life in the last three years, because of the insecurity and conflicts caused by insurgent groups based in Cabo Delgado.”

They recounted that on 5 September 2022, the insurgents arrived in the community of Nacutho, murdering a Christian named Francisco Massaya at the foot of the chapel. 

The following day, they arrived in the Chipene area, where they also murdered two men, a Christian named Marcelino dos Santos Varinaya, and a Muslim named Sualehe Xavier.

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The insurgents are said to have proceeded to a mission hospital in Chipene where they vandalized the doors and set fire to all the wards, including the maternity ward. They are then said to have entered the mission and murdered Sr Maria who had lived in Mozambique for 60 years, “serving the Gospel and loving the Macua people with deep tenderness and fidelity.”

“We believe that her witness and faith will not be forgotten by us: she was a catechist and teacher who did not give up spreading the Gospel in all the difficult times of war, religious persecution and in places where the Gospel had not yet reached,” read the parishioners’ statement.

After the murder of Sr. Maria, the insurgents are said to have proceeded to vandalize the church, set fire to the sisters‘ house, the priests’ house and the house where the sister cared for orphaned and malnourished children. They also burned two of the priests' cars.

“On the third day, the insurgents passed through Nantaca and met a man named Silvano Valentim. They asked him what religion he professed and he said he was a Christian. He was next to his aunt, they told him to sit down and he was beheaded,” they further recounted.

In their statement, the parishioners recounted that the terrorists then headed for Canyunya-Naheco where they set fire to 190 houses, including our Catholic Church chapel and the school.”


They are said to have arrived in Tataulo, a different community, where  they met the locals and asked the people present to divide themselves into groups of men and women as well as Christians and Muslims. 

“When the first three Christians bravely came forward, they were tied up and beheaded,” read the parishioners' statement.

“While they were killing the first, named Francisco Rimo, baptized and married in the Church with nine children, they put the book of the liturgy (Masu Apwiya) on his chest. The second, known as Celestino Santos Mitupiya, was baptized, married in a church, father of seven children, and a catechist, and had the Bible placed on his chest. The third, named Silva António, was a catechumen and father of two children, who were given the catechism of the third stage,” the parishioners recounted.

The parishioners told their Bishops that those who died had planted a seed of witness to the faith in the Church in Mozambique.

They thanked the Bishop for “always being with us to strengthen our faith.”

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Following their visit, the Bishops issued a statement, saying they remained concerned about “the difficult and tragic situation of suffering that the conflict is causing in the local population.”

They expressed concern that the insurgency in Mozambique “does not seem to see an imminent solution, despite all the efforts that have been put in place.”

The Catholic Bishops in Mozambique lamented that the reception and care of internally displaced people is experiencing management difficulties.

The CEM members highlighted the Church's willingness to be at the service of the displaced, “as it has been doing since the first hours, despite the difficulties of recent times in collaborating with the local structures in charge of managing the reception camps.”

They pledged to continue to provide useful means for the Christian communities to continue their activities in favor of the spiritual life of each person.”

João Vissesse is an Angolan Journalist with a passion and rich experience in Catholic Church Communication and Media Apostolate.