Whereabouts of Two Brazilian Nuns Unknown Weeks after Jihadist Attack in Mozambique

A Catholic Church destroyed by Jihadist attacks in Cabo Delgado within the Diocese of Pemba in Mozambique.
Credit: Public Domain

The leadership of the Catholic Church in Mozambique is searching for two nuns belonging to Saint Joseph of Chambéry in the Diocese of Pemba who went missing after jihadists attacked a port city in the Southern African country beginning of August, taking control of the city where the nuns’ convent is located.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Fr. Kwiriwi Fonseca of the Diocese of Pemba in Northern Mozambique said that nothing had been heard of the two Brazilian nuns since August 5 when the jihadists attacked the port of Mocímboa da Praia in Northern Mozambique, forcing residents to vacate the city.

Fr. Fonseca reported that the latest in a string of attacks, which Pope Francis reacted to, expressing solidarity with the people of God in the country, had been followed by several continuous days of fighting during which contact was lost with Sr. Eliane da Costa and Sr. Inés Ramos, who is over 70.

“When the town was occupied, there was no phone signal and so we were unable to contact the Sisters, and we thought they might have lost their mobile phones. We are hoping that they are still alive but have no means of communication. We have not had any official notification,” Fr. Fonseca said.

The Cleric further revealed to the pastoral and humanitarian organization that the region around Mocímboa da Praia had been cut from access to outsiders and that “nobody can travel there.”

“If the sisters have returned to the convent, we have no way of knowing it, because there is no place there where they can buy a new mobile phone,” the Cleric said in a statement that ACN shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, September 2.

He added, “Without any news of these people we have no idea whether they have disappeared, died or been abducted. We don’t know anything.”

The humanitarian crisis that is afflicting the province of Cabo Delgado in the far north of Mozambique is the result of terrorist attacks.

Fr. Cantífula de Castro, the Assistant Director of Radio Encontro, the radio station of the Archdiocese of Nampula in the neighboring province sent a message to ACN in which he explained the need for humanitarian aid in the region that is experiencing a surge in the population of refugees owing to the attacks.

“In the Archdiocese of Nampula, around 5,000 refugees have arrived. Most of them are young women and children in need of humanitarian aid. And they have no housing, food or clothing, nor any protection against COVID-19,” Fr. Cantífula told ACN which is helping the people of Mozambique through various projects, ranging from the rebuilding of churches to the support of priests and missionaries.

“The people are going through unbearable suffering on account of the terrorism,” he said, and added, “It is a deplorable situation. It is estimated that there have been more than 1,000 deaths, with houses burned, villages abandoned, people reduced to living in the hills and others fleeing with absolutely nothing and seeking protection in places of relative safety.”

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.

Despite the complexity of the situation and the lack of resources, Fr. de Castro said, the Church is not abandoning the people, “but remaining by their side, giving them whatever material aid and spiritual support it can.”

In his appeal to the international community, the Cleric said, “Please do not forget us. If you can, please help these people who have lost everything and been forced to flee from their homes.”

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
[email protected]