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Catholic Bishops in Southern Africa Concerned about Violence in Mozambique: Peace Entity

Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference logo. Credit: Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference

The leadership of the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), says that Catholic Bishops in the Southern African pastoral region are concerned that the insurgent attacks in Mozambique may have a terrible effect in the whole region if it remains untamed.

DHPI Director, Johan Viljoen, says that Catholic Bishops are working to ensure that peace is achieved in the Southern African country, which continues to experience militant attacks that have left hundreds of thousands displaced.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Mr. Viljoen was asked where the SACBC stands with regards to the Mozambican crisis.

“Our Bishops are deeply concerned about the situation in Mozambique. It is a neighboring country; it is at our doorstep. If the situation escalates, we can all be affected,” Mr. Viljoen says in the Monday, August 16 report.

He adds, “The Mozambican Catholic Bishops’ Conference has come out with statements, there are all sorts of initiatives to bring peace on the ground and I think our Bishops are not going to impose anything on them. We are in solidarity with the Church in Mozambique and we support whatever they do on that side.”

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The Director of DHPI says that at the moment, the Church is giving a lot of humanitarian assistance to the victims of attacks in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province. A significant number of the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced from the Province are seeking refuge in the Catholic Archdiocese of Nampula.

The DHPI official says that the Church’s humanitarian assistance has been channeled from various donors.

“If you go to places like Corane (a refugee settlement in Nampula), you will see that the Church is in the forefront of providing humanitarian assistance such as building houses for those who have been displaced,” Mr. Viljoen says in reference to the housing project in Nampula.

He adds, “We just recently started a new project and we are busy working with the Archdiocese of Nampula to provide free legal assistance to the displaced people who need it.”

The official of SACBC says that at the moment, the Catholic Church is calling for peace, adding, “If you read the statement by the Mozambican Catholic Bishops they also don’t come out strongly to say that this is Islamic Jihad. They say what is happening is religious radicalism but there are a lot of disgruntled people and we have to talk to them and they have been calling for peace and for negotiations.”

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Mr. Viljoen however underscores the difficulty of advocating for negotiations in a country where parties in the conflict have not yet been defined.

“Of course, it is not easy to negotiate if you do not know who you are negotiating with. There is a bit of uproar in Mozambique at the moment because former President Joakim Chisano came out and said we cannot continue to kill those who are said to be insurgents because we are all brothers and sisters and that everybody is created in the image of God. He said that there should be dialogue and not a military solution,” Mr. Viljoen says.

The official of the peace entity that has always advocated for demilitarization in conflicts reiterates the former President’s call for talks in Mozambique saying, “I think that is what the Church in Mozambique has been calling for as well; for dialogue and engagement and not for the military approach.”