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Christian in Mozambique Risks Life by Declining Offer to Convert to Islam

Victims of militant attacks in Cabo Delgado. Credit: Denis Hurley Peace Institute

A Christian man who was offered an opportunity to convert to Islam risked his life by declining the offer at the hands of jihadists in Cabo Delgado in Northern Mozambique.

Fr. Kwiriwi Fonseca of the Catholic Diocese of Pemba that covers the troubled Mozambican Province detailed the encounter of the man in an interview with Catholic Pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) United Kingdom.

The man, who Fr. Fonseca did not reveal for security reasons, is said to have been held by jihadists in the bushes and witnessed as those who refused to convert to Islam were hacked to death.

“We met a Christian who was told ‘Do you want to stay here and become Muslim or do you want to go home?’ It’s risky as some of the people who say they want to go home are slaughtered on the spot,” Fr. Fonseca recalled.

He added, in reference to the Christian man, “He knew he would be killed but he said it is better to go home. The man decided he could go home; it’s very mysterious.”

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The Pontifical charity reports that kidnapping is a tactic frequently used by the jihadists who have been waging an insurgency in Mozambique since 2017.

Fr. Fonseca is responsible for communications in the Diocese of Pemba and maintains contact with scores of victims who have been displaced by the terrorist violence. He is also in constant contact with other Priests and women and men Religious ministering within the Province of Cabo Delgado.

He once said, in reference to the increased abductions, “I believe the object is radicalization.”

“We are talking of children and young people who were torn from their homes last year, or the year before,” the Priest said in a past interview and added, “It’s a long time to be in contact with evil, and one ends up assimilating this evil. Interacting with them can end up converting them into the worst kind of terrorists.”

The Priest attested that Catholic Nuns are among those who have once been abducted and held by militants for days.

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Sr. Eliane da Costa, a Brazilian Catholic Nun who was serving in the Northern town of Mocímboa da Praia is one of the Nuns that has been held by jihadists.

“Sr. Eliane da Costa was kidnapped in August last year when this port city fell into terrorist hands, and afterwards dozens of people were kidnapped,” ACN said in a past report, adding that another Religious, Sr. Inés Ramos, was also among those that were taken away.

Both Catholic Nuns who witnessed the experience of the abducted children belong to the same Congregation of St. Joseph of Chambéry.

In a past interview with the Pontifical Foundation, Fr. Fonseca recalled his conversation with one of the Nuns, saying, “Sr. Eliane herself was held for 24 days by the terrorists, in the mountains, and she begged me, Padre Fonseca, please don’t forget the people who have been abducted, above all the children and adolescents, who are being trained to become terrorists.”

He said, “First of all, we have experienced two Sisters being kidnapped in the bush… The Sisters were not forced to convert to Islam. The treatment was good but the abductors wanted some money.”

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In the Thursday, August 12 ACN report, the Priest explained, “The terrorists called the Bishops from the bush and said if you want the Sisters we want money… The Sisters were told you can remain if you want but if you want to go home someone will have to pay.”

While the two Catholic Nuns are now in Brazil, other women continue to be sexually exploited in captivity, Fr. Fonseca says, adding, “I have been talking with some other women. They suffer being forced to make love and marry the fighter. They do want to make them be Muslim but they don’t have the ritual to make them Muslim.”

In a past interview, Fr. Fonseca said that terrorists in Mozambique were abducting children to become soldiers or brides.

The leadership of ACN which accompanies victims of the Mozambican violence has approved emergency aid of €160,000 (£136,500) to Mozambique, providing beans, flour, cooking oil and other foodstuffs for displaced people facing famine.