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International Catholic Charity Facilitating Counselling of Mozambique’s Violence Victims

Women, men, and children crowded on a canter in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado

The Pontifical charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has reached out to the victims of violence in Mozambique who have been traumatized by the various kinds of atrocities they are facing owing to the ongoing insurgency in their country.

In a report published by ACN Thursday, March 18, the leadership of the charity organization highlights a number of projects in the Southern African nation, including financial support to boost humanitarian relief in camps, especially in Northern parts of the country.

ACN reports that it has granted US$190,000.00 in emergency aid because, “despite international relief efforts, there is an acute scarcity of food and many people are starving.”

In the report, Ulrich Kny, the ACN project officer for Mozambique says, “Thanks to this support, the Priests and Sisters are able to distribute food to the refugees.”

“Another project was initiated to provide psychosocial assistance to the refugees, most of whom are severely traumatized after experiencing unimaginable suffering in the terrorist attacks and through their forced displacement,” ACN leadership says.

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According to the pontifical charity organization, more than 120 pastoral workers and volunteers in Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese have already received psychological training.

Civilians in Mozambique are exposed to a myriad of challenges, with a reported escalation of violence that has forced hundreds of thousands into camps where they face starvation and infections with diseases.

“Almost weekly, new horror stories from Mozambique reach Aid to the Church in Need,” Kny in the report, adding, “Largely unnoticed by the international community, the country is suffering one humanitarian catastrophe after another.”

Since 2017, Mozambique has been the target of countless attacks, the basis for which remains unknown. Observers have suggested a mix of economic, political and religious interests.

The leadership of Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), an initiative of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) that is establishing a desk in the Ecclesiastical Province of Nampula, which covers Cabo Delgado, one of the most volatile regions in the northern part of the country, has faulted western media for framing the ongoing crisis in Mozambique as motivated by religious differences.

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“The western media is demonizing Islam to try and advance their interest in Northern Mozambique when they clearly have their own economic interests in the region that has been found to have natural gas and oil,” DHPI Director told ACI Africa Thursday, March 18.

In the ACN March 18 report, Kny had a conversation with Sr. Aparecida Ramos Queiroz, who is responsible for coordinating the relief projects in the Diocese of Pemba in Northern Mozambique.

Attacks have been carried out in nine of the 17 districts of the province of Cabo Delgado. The violence is directed at the entire community, not just at Christians, reported Sr. Aparecida.

“Both Muslim and Christian institutions are being attacked. We Christians are not the primary target of the insurgents,” she said.

However, in the report, the Catholic Nun says that the Church has suffered great losses through the violence that has reportedly led to the death of more than 2,500 people and an additional 700,000 fleeing their homes since insurgency in Mozambique began in 2017.

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She told ACN that several churches have been destroyed completely. Six of the 23 Parishes of the Diocese of Pemba are deserted; the situation is so unstable that most of the Parish members have fled.

ACN reports that as violence continues to eat deeper into Mozambique, the country is currently also being “battered by the COVID pandemic.”

“While the first wave was comparatively mild, the number of infected persons has sky-rocketed since January. It is alarming how the number of deaths has escalated,” Kny says.

Moreover, cholera is also spreading due to the catastrophic hygienic conditions in the refugee camps, which have no access to clean water, the project officer at ACN says.

“In the meantime, the government has started to resettle the refugees from Pemba in other parts of the region. Many find shelter with other families, others in new refugee settlements,” he says.

He explains that most of the Priests and Sisters who were based in the conflict areas fled together with the parishioners.

“They are now trying to continue their pastoral work among the refugees from their Parishes there, where they have taken shelter. The local Church workers are supporting them in their work as much as they can,” Kny says.

ACN also provides aid for Priests and women Religious as well as funding for training courses for Seminarians and prospective Sisters, funding for expansion of Church infrastructure, for Church media work, among other projects.

“The Church in Mozambique is an anchor of hope and charity in a sea of suffering and violence. That is why we have made this country a top priority. Any form of support helps to assuage the suffering of this oppressed and uprooted people,” Kny says.