Bishop in Mozambique Engages President over Insurgent Attacks, Humanitarian Crisis

Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa(left) and President Felipe Nyusi (right) during the August 31 meeting at the Episcopal Palace in Pemba Diocese.
Credit: Public Domain

The Bishop of Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese played host to the country’s President earlier this week to discuss the insurgent attacks and humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado Province, a region within the Catholic Diocese of Pemba, the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) reported Wednesday, September 2.

“On 31 August 2020 President Felipe Nyusi held a meeting with Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa at the Episcopal Palace in Pemba,” the leadership of IMBISA reported September 2, adding that President Nyusi had responded to Bishop Lisboa’s invitation.

The meeting between the two leaders has been described as “private” and the details of their discussion have not been disclosed.

Addressing journalists after the August 31 meeting, Bishop Lisboa said that President Nyusi “was happy and grateful for the invitation and praised the role of the Church in Cabo Delgado.”

The Brazilian-born Bishop thanked the President for honoring his invitation and described their August 31 encounter as having been “rich” and “fruitful.”

On his part, President Nyusi has been quoted as telling journalists after his meeting with Bishop Lisboa, “The country is living at a time when it needs to speak, to dialogue. It is necessary to understand what the other sees and what the other knows.”

He added in reference to Bishop Lisboa, “Being religious, this Bishop of ours has a lot of information. It is logical information because the church is implanted here in the territory of the province and has many believers, priests. We took the opportunity to share information and even exchange some ideas.”

The province of Cabo Delgado has, since October 2017, been the scene of attacks by armed insurgents who some months ago openly declared allegiance to ISIS. It all started when an Islamist armed group known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a (ASWJ) attacked a police station in Mocimboa da Praia district.

The attacks have been growing in intensity since the beginning of this year.

In a July news report, Bishop Lisboa described the situation of families that have been displaced following armed conflict in the region of Cabo Delgado as “worrying.”

“The situation of displaced persons in the province of Cabo Delgado is worrying. This has plunged thousands of families into despair and suffering,” Bishop Lisboa said in the July 8 report.

He 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.

On August 9, Bishop Lisboa told ACI Africa correspondent in Mozambique that the situation the crisis in Cabo Delgado had “completely destabilized our province.”

“The impact of the crisis is fatal, it has hit every province and all the inhabitants of Cabo Delgado province,” Bishop Lisboa told ACI Africa correspondent and added, “There are more than 250,000 displaced people scattered throughout the province in need of assistance.”

He appealed for assistance saying, “We call on the international community to come to our aid. The people need solidarity and in addition to helping to end the crisis, we need to feed all these displaced people. We need food, medicine, clothes, blankets, all the help is needed to help the displaced people.”

On August 19, Bishop Lisboa received a call from the Holy Father who assured him and the people of Cabo Delgado Province of his prayers. 

“He said he is very close to me and all the people of Cabo Delgado and monitors the situation experienced in our province with great concern and has prayed for us,” Bishop Lisboa said in reference to his phone conversation with Pope Francis. 

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