, 08 July, 2020 / 6:39 PM
A Bishop in Mozambique has described as “worrying” the situation of families that have been displaced following armed conflict in the region of Cabo Delgado that is part of his Diocese and called for prayerful solidarity with the families in distress.
“The situation of displaced persons in the province of Cabo Delgado is worrying. This has plunged thousands of families into despair and suffering,” Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese said in an interview with Vatican News published Wednesday, July 8.
Bishop Lisboa explained, “We need to pray for the families who are incomplete because someone of the family died in the conflict or because someone is missing.”
“There are people who have been kidnapped, especially young girls and their families are suffering. There are also families whose young girls have disappeared and the families do not know if they are alive or if they are dead if they are also in these armed groups,” the Brazilian-born Prelate recounted.
He added, “Families are also divided because some members have fled to other cities and to the capital while others are still in the village sleeping in the bushes for fear of the attackers.”
The violent insurgency that has been going on in Mozambique’s Province of Cabo Delgado since 2017 has negatively affected the lives of over 600,000 people, with more than 200,000 displaced across the Province located in northern part of the country, according to UN Reliefweb.
Over time, the humanitarian situation of affected populations has deteriorated; rising death tolls have been reported in at least 11 of the 16 districts.
Last month, insurgents executed 15 heads of families in a week in the districts of Macomia and Meluco in the north of the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, a situation that occasioned fear among the residents of the two districts.
This was followed by the abduction of 10 girls in the district of Mocímboa da Praia and a further execution of 10 heads of families on June 10 and June 11 in the village of Cabora in Quiterajo, Macomia district.
During their first Ordinary Plenary Assembly held in Maputo last month, Bishops in Mozambique under their common forum of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM) condemned recurrent attacks in Cabo Delgado and assured Bishop Lisboa of their prayerful “communion and solidarity.”
“Having heard the testimony of the situation of great tribulation in which our brothers and fellow citizens of Cabo Delgado are immersed, we want to assure our prayers for all the victims and to express our empathy, communion and solidarity with our brother Bishop, Luís Lisboa, and to appreciate the witness of pastoral concern that he has boldly and tirelessly given,” the Bishops said in their collective statement at the end of their five-day meeting.
Bishop Lisboa reiterated his call for prayerful solidarity with affected families during the July 8 interview saying, “We have joined the Church all over the world and we have heeded the call of Pope Francis who asks us in this month of July to pray for the families. But at this time in a special way we invite our people to pray for the families displaced by the armed conflict in the province of Cabo Delgado.”
The member of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists – CP) said that “the Church intends to be a loving presence of God to help families who have fallen into despair, so that they do not lose faith but rather regain their self-esteem and hope because God has not abandoned them.”
“Let us continue then to pray for all our families,” he underscored and added, “The Church continues to work to help thousands of displaced families through the assistance provided by Caritas, the humanitarian arm of the Catholic Church.”
As a way forward, “the Church has been working with families in the villages to support the people who are suffering the attacks especially those who have lost everything,” the Local Ordinary of Pemba said, adding, “We try to be the voice of the voiceless by telling the world what is happening in Cabo Delgado.”
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