, 24 November, 2020 / 11:30 PM
Members of the three-nation conference in Southern Africa have planned to reach out to the Bishop of Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese in a solidarity visit amid insurgency in Cabo Delgado Province.
“The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) decided on a solidarity visit to the Bishop of Pemba from December 2 to December 4,” says Bishop José Luis Ponce de León of Swaziland’s Manzini in a Tuesday, November 24 statement.
Making reference to those at the helm of Catholic Dioceses in Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland who constitute SACBC, Bishop José Luis says that the visit is a response to the call for solidarity made by the Bishop of Mozambique’ Pemba Diocese.
“Earlier this year, the Bishop of Pemba – Luiz Fernando Lisboa – said in an interview: ‘Our people urgently need peace because this crisis has completely destabilized our province. We call on the international community to come to our aid’,” Bishop José Luis says.
He adds making reference to Bishop Lisboa’s August interview with ACI Africa, “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.”
The delegation to visit Bishop Lisboa will include Bishop José Luis, Bishop Victor Phalana of South Africa’s Klerksdorp Diocese, the SACBC Assistant Secretary General, Sr. Tshifhiwa Munzhedzi, and the Director of the Dennis Hurley Peace Institute, Johan Viljoen.
“As we entrust this visit to your prayers, I call everyone in our Diocese to keep the people of Cabo Delgado in our prayers,” implores Bishop José Luis in the November 24 statement.
The member of Consolata Missionaries adds, “Let us also pray for those who have been entrusted with the difficult service of any type of leadership that the Spirit of the Lord gives them wisdom so that the life and dignity of every person is respected.”
The Province of Cabo Delgado has been the center of attacks by armed insurgents who pay allegiance to ISIS since October 2017.
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 within Cabo Delgado Province.
600,000 people have been negatively affected by the crisis with more than 200,000 displaced across the region, UN Reliefweb has reported.
In September, members of SACBC expressed their solidarity with the people of God in Cabo Delgado indicating their awareness of the situation in Mozambique’s Northernmost Province.
“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 said.
They added, “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).”
On October 27, the Bishop of Pemba appealed for aid saying that the people of God in the region are experiencing a “deep humanitarian crisis.”
“We need support, we need help. We are truly in a deep humanitarian crisis and we need solidarity,” said Bishop Lisboa.
The Prelate who was speaking after his pastoral visit to Paquitequete beach where those fleeing the violence in the region had been arriving in small boats added, “There are a lot of people to be cared for and they need everything.”
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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