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Amid Attacks, Mozambique’s Bishops Express Solidarity with All Yearning for Dignified life

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM). Credit: Courtesy Photo

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM) have expressed their solidarity with all those affected by the violence in the Province of Cabo Delgado within the Catholic Diocese of Pemba and “yearn for a dignified life.”

In their collective statement issued April 16, the Catholic Bishops in Mozambique condemn the ongoing insurgency and express “total solidarity with the weak and with young people who yearn for a dignified life.”

“We, the Catholic Bishops of Mozambique, with our hearts full of sadness, like all Mozambican citizens who identify with the good of the country, deplore the tragic situation that the population of Cabo Delgado is living,” CEM members lament.

The Cabo Delgado Province has been the scene of attacks by armed groups claiming allegiance to ISIS since October 2017. The attacks have resulted in a humanitarian crisis of far reaching proportions.

Last month, Islamist militants reportedly attacked the town of Palma in Cabo Delgado Province near the major gas project run by the French energy giant, Total, with witnesses saying they saw casualties in streets following the attack, according to multiple media reports.

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Since the insurgency started, the attacks have left at least 2,500 people dead and 700,000 homeless, according to media reports.

In their collective statement issued at the end of their first 2021 Plenary Assembly, the Catholic Church leaders say, “In Cabo Delgado defenseless people are killed, wounded and abused. They see their property looted, the privacy of their homes violated, their homes destroyed, and the bodies of their relatives desecrated.”

“They are forced to abandon their homeland. These fellow citizens of ours, mostly women and children, are pushed to the brink of insecurity and fear,” the Bishops further say in reference to the defenseless people in Cabo Delgado.

They continue, “We deplore the prevalence of this state of affairs, with no clear indications that the causes that fuel this conflict will soon be overcome.”

CEM members explain that this state of affairs “increases and consolidates the perception that behind this conflict there are interests of various kinds and origins, namely those of certain groups to take over the nation and its resources.”

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“Resources which, instead of being put at the service of local communities and becoming a source of sustenance and development, with the construction of infrastructures, basic services, job opportunities,” the Catholic Bishops say, “are subtracted, in a total lack of transparency, feeding revolt and rancor, particularly in the hearts of the youth, and becoming a source of discontent, division, and mourning.”

CEM members further explain, “one of the strong reasons that drives our young people to be enticed and to join the various forms of insurgency, from criminality to terrorism ... is based on our young people's experience of lack of hope for a favorable future.”

Most of the youth, the Bishop continue, “have no opportunities to lead a decent life. They feel that society and decision-makers ignore their sufferings and do not listen to their voice.”

“How can young people have prospects if the country itself seems to have no direction, no common project in which they are invited to be active collaborators and which nourishes their hope?” they pose in their collective statement.

The Catholic Church has always been committed to collaborating with the State for the good of the nation, “pointing out the dangers and always hoping that those who have responsibilities seek the proper solutions,” CEM members say.

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“We have always given our concrete collaboration in the field of the welfare of our people in education, health and human development,” the Bishops say.

“Religions have a great contribution to make in the resilience of communities, and pursuing an ideal of a united society,” they add, cautioning against limiting the actions of religious actors for such move “does not favor the search for solutions.”

The Bishops say they will continue to “redouble our efforts to help the destitute and to welcome the displaced, offering them listening and consolation, as well as means of support shared by believers.”

“We would like to be able to offer our children and young people educational paths that open them to the values of tolerance, respect, and friendship, and allow them to see the dream of a better future fulfilled,” the Catholic Church leaders say.

They reiterate their availability to collaborate with relevant authorities “for a social order where selfishness leaves room for solidarity, and to elaborate a project for a country that contemplates every citizen, privileging the most marginalized and disadvantaged.”

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“We urge the national political forces, the organizations present in the country, and the international community to unite their efforts and, putting aside their own interests, to come to the aid of displaced populations, those living under severe food insecurity, exposed to endemic diseases, and without access to basic services,” CEM members say in their April 16 collective statement. 

They appeal to “everyone to contribute to peace, protecting the population, closing off the avenues of financing the war, isolating and stopping individuals or groups that take advantage of the tragedy in Cabo Delgado.”

Despite the difficult moments in the Southern African country, the Bishops urge the people of God “not to lose hope.”

“Hope is bold; it knows how to look beyond personal comforts, the small securities and compensations that reduce the horizon, to open up to the great ideals that make life more beautiful and dignified. Let us walk in hope!” CEM members say, making reference to Pope Francis’ Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti.

Samuel Antonio and Teodoro Antonio De Abreu in Mozambique contributed to this news report.