, 30 May, 2020 / 2:25 AM
Bishops serving in the Ecclesiastical Province of Nampula in Mozambique are “deeply concerned” about the “mysterious and incomprehensible” conflict in the region of Cabo Delgado located in the northern part of the country and call on the warring parties to chart the way to peace “through tolerance, political dialogue and respect for the dignity and rights of every human being.”
“We are deeply concerned about the worsening situation in Cabo Delgado which, in practice, has become the scene of a mysterious and incomprehensible conflict where violent fighting is taking place,” the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Nampula have said in a collective statement released Thursday, May 28.
The Bishops decry the violence “that has been going on since 2017 and is spreading throughout the Province and with it so many other forms of violence and violation of human rights, deteriorating the already precarious living conditions and causing great suffering to the people.”
According to a report, fighting in the region of Cabo Delgado started in October 2017 when an Islamist armed group known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a (ASWJ) attacked a police station in Mocimboa da Praia district.
Since then, the group has reportedly carried out more than 350 attacks, killing over 600 people and leaving over 115,000 displaced.
In response to the attacks, Mozambican security forces have also been involved in human rights abuses in Cabo Delgado, including unlawful killings, intimidation of journalists, arbitrary arrests, and ill-treatment of detainees.
In recent months, there has been a significant increase in the number of attacks in the northern province, with the vast majority attributed to Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamaah (ASWJ) group.
The Ecclesiastical Province of Nampula is one of the three Ecclesiastical Provinces in Mozambique. Established in 1983, it is constituted by the Archdiocese of Nampula and the four dioceses of Nacala, Pemba, Lichinga and Gurúè.
Last month, Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese condemned the jihadist attack and the actions of the attackers that occurred in the territory within his diocese, which is in the region of Cabo Delgado, describing the episode as a tragedy, a real shame, and a disgrace to the citizens of the Southern African nation.
During the March 23 attack, the jihadists burned public buildings, released prisoners from the local prison, patrolled the streets freely and as a sign of their demonstration of strength, raised the black flag, identifying themselves as members of the Islamic jihadist groups, local sources testified.
In their May 28 collective statement, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Nampula recall the March 23 incident and other acts of violence in the region saying, “The dramatic consequences of this multifaceted crisis are clear: burning of villages, destruction of economic and social infrastructures, frightened and starving populations, families on the run, literally confused and disoriented without knowing where to seek shelter and protection.”
They continue, “The tensions and armed conflicts that are taking place in one of the regions saturated with natural resources in our country and marked by the lack of real information and the abundance of misinformation, have much to say about our being and acting as Mozambican people.”
Unfortunately, the Catholic leaders say, “the main victims of all this are the young people who, seeing themselves excluded from opportunities and eager to get out of the situation of poverty in which they are plunged, end up becoming involved in the depths of crime and violence, this time falling into a dilemma.”
"To make matters worse," they say, "the Province of Cabo Delgado, already so badly affected, has unfortunately become, in Mozambique, the epicenter of the outbreak of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.”
They note that their role “as shepherds of the Lord's flock does not allow us to close our eyes or remain silent in the face of the cry of the people crushed by suffering."
The Bishops call on all “persons and institutions of goodwill, in the diversity of functions and responsibilities, to commit themselves faithfully to the pursuit of a Mozambican society of reconciliation, peace and social justice through tolerance, political dialogue and respect for the dignity and rights of every human being, without any form of discrimination or exclusion.”
They express their closeness with the people of God in the region and encourage them to remain firm in their faith.
“As pastors, we want to manifest our closeness and solidarity with all our fellow citizens of Cabo Delgado and at the same time, encourage them never to lose courage and hope in better times,” the Bishops say.
They recognize the efforts of those reaching out to the affected persons saying, “We also want to express our appreciation and recognition to all those, inside or outside, who take and multiply initiatives to alleviate the suffering of the people.”
“We strongly encourage the work of those who, seriously and authentically, are committed to finding ways to restore security, stability, peace and order to suffering peoples,” they add.
“May we, with the rosary in our hands and Mary in our hearts, especially intensify our faith in the power of prayer by praying the holy rosary as a family and with filial trust in the Heart of Mary, Mother of Mercy and mediator of all graces,” the Bishops implore.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa