, 08 September, 2020 / 7:42 PM
Catholic Bishops in Southern Africa have, in a collective statement, expressed their solidarity with the people of God in Mozambique indicating their awareness of “the rapidly deteriorating situation” of Cabo Delgado Province, a region within the Catholic Diocese of Pemba.
In their Tuesday, September 8 statement shared with ACI Africa, members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) commend the Bishops in Mozambique for their prophetic call for hope, peace and reconciliation in the Southern African nation.
“We have been following with increasing concern the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Diocese of Pemba, Cabo Delgado Province – the widespread violence, destruction of property, forced dislocation of over 200,000 people and loss of life,” SACBC members say.
They add, “The violence, suffering and death caused by ongoing armed conflict is an affront to all of us. In moments of despair we can cry out: ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ (Rev. 6:10).”
SACBC members drawn from South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland laud their counterparts in Mozambique for their Pastoral letter issued August 22 describing it “as prophetic in its call for Hope, Peace and Reconciliation, and clearly sets out the position of the Church and the role it should play.”
“In the face of attempts by those opposed to peace to sow division in Mozambique, we commend you for unity issuing the Pastoral Letter,” the Prelates say in their statement signed by SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka.
Referencing the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, SACBC members add, “We as the Church are to be a channel of God’s peace.”
Since October 2017, the province of Cabo Delgado has been the scene of attacks by armed insurgents that, some months ago, openly declared allegiance to ISIS.
The crisis started when an Islamist armed group known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a (ASWJ) attacked a police station in Mocimboa da Praia district.
Since the beginning of this year, the insurgent attacks have been growing in intensity.
In July, the Bishop of Pemba expressed his concerns about the situation of families that have been displaced following armed conflict in the region of Cabo Delgado saying, “The situation of displaced persons in the province of Cabo Delgado is worrying. This has plunged thousands of families into despair and suffering.”
In an August 10 interview with ACI Africa Correspondent, the Brazilian-born Prelate said that the violence in Cabo Delgado has “completely destabilized our province.”
In their September 8 statement, SACBC members say, “We appreciate your call for reconciliation and your commitment to spare no effort in encouraging and supporting the processes of promoting a culture of peace.”
They make reference to St. Paul’s message on the need for reconciliation saying, “Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Indeed, working for reconciliation is a responsibility placed upon all of us.”
“As the SACBC, we avail ourselves to cooperate with you in making justice, peace and reconciliation a reality in your country,” the three-nation Catholic leaders promise in their September 8 solidarity statement.
Pope Francis has also been following the crisis in Mozambique. On August 19, the Holy Father reached out to Bishop Lisboa on phone during which the Pontiff assured the Bishop and the people of Cabo Delgado Province of his prayers.
SACBC members make reference to Holy Father’s phone call saying, “Our hearts are warmed by the news of the Holy Father’s phone call to the Bishop of Pemba on 19 August 2020, and the encouragement it gave not only to the Bishop but to all the people of Cabo Delgado.”
They add, “In the same spirit of brotherhood and solicitude expressed by the Holy Father, beginning with his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing on Easter Sunday 12 April 2020, we send this letter of solidarity to you brother bishops and God’s people in Mozambique entrusted to your care.”
“We share the closeness of the Holy Father to you and we would welcome the opportunity of a solidarity visit once international travel between our two countries resumes,” SACBC members further say.
“We pray that you will remain steadfast in your efforts to minister in these difficult circumstances and that you will be sustained in your hope in the Prince of Peace,” they implore and add, “We commend you to the motherly care and prayers of Our Lady Queen of Africa for peace in your country.”
“We assure you of our prayers for peace in Cabo Delgado and for your well-being,” the Catholic Church leaders in Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland conclude.
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