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Christian, Muslim Leaders in Mozambique Commit to Fight Extremism in New Declaration

Flag of mozambique in the world map. | hyotographics/Shutterstock

Religious leaders who met in Mozambique’s city of Pemba have distanced themselves from extremists who kill in the name of religion in the country’s Cabo Delgado Province and vowed to unite in the fight against radicalism and violence in the embattled region.

In the interfaith statement obtained by ACI Africa Monday, January 10, the Christian and Muslim leaders commit, among other things, to work together to propagate “the true meaning of religion” and to save the image of Islam, which they say is the most prejudiced in the event of extremism.

“We declare… our strong unity in the face of any threat of rupture and our unanimous rejection of terrorist and extremist acts, as well as our commitment to walk side by side in favor of peace and brotherhood,” the religious leaders say in the January 3 Interfaith Declaration of Pemba.

The Christian and Muslim leaders also express their commitment to continue working for the true meaning of religion, “so that society does not see religion as the cause of any conflict, in particular Islamic religion, the one most affected by prejudice.”

The faith leaders signed the declaration after their three-day gathering in December in Pemba, the capital city of Cabo Delgado where they explored ways to use religion to counter terrorism in the embattled province.

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The leaders reflected broadly on the topic, “Religion as part of this solution to the conflict in Cabo Delgado", in the context of the Mozambican Province’s “deep humanitarian crisis.”

The religious leaders acknowledge that the region’s woes are caused by terrorist violence.

It is estimated that more than 3,000 people have lost their lives and more than 800,000 have been displaced in Mozambique as a result of the terrorist attacks, which began in October 2017.

Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Portugal, has also raised alarm over attacks in other Mozambican towns outside Cabo Delgado.

Mozambique is also experiencing a regression in development owing to the country’s deep social inequalities and the consequences of the restrictive prevention measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, the religious leaders observed in their statement obtained by ACI Africa January 10. 

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The 15-point Interfaith Declaration of Pemba was signed by various delegates, including Bishop Antonio Juliasse Sandramo from the Mozambican Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Sheik Nze Assuate who represented the Islamic Council of Mozambique, and Sheik Nassuaralahe Dula of the Islamic Congress of Mozambique.

Others were Pastor Alberto Sabao of the Christian Council of Mozambique, Sheik Adbul Larifo Incacha of the Islamic Community of Cabo Delgado, Sheik Victorino Luis Promoja of the Muslim Youth Union, and Sheik Ismael Selemane of the Council of the Alimos of Cabo Delgado. 

The religious leaders appended their signatures against the commitment to reject the claim that terrorist acts are attributed to Islam religion.

“Be aware that religion aims to create happiness, reconciliation and peace in society and, for this reason, we repudiate and distance ourselves from acts and people who distort religious doctrines to justify any type of violence,” the faith-based leaders say in their statement.

They also express their commitment to always show a positive and proactive attitude towards members of other religions in a way they say would help overcome resistance, mistrust and prejudiced attitudes.  

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They also commit to work to promote mutual knowledge and sharing among religions. 

“We declare… that it is our common understanding that all religions form part of the design of the Almighty God and, therefore, are for the good. No true religious leader or prophet ever taught violence,” the interfaith leaders in Mozambique further say.

They also express a commitment to employ dialogue “within religions and between religions” as a means of appreciation of the country’s diversity in religion.  

The religious leaders also promise to urge the entire Mozambican society to dialogue in a frank, open, honest and inclusive manner.

The leaders also express their commitment to continue speaking at services in ways that do not just encourage mastery of scriptures “but also the science to better interpret reality.” 

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They say that they would always be at the forefront to mobilize and sensitize the country’s adolescents and young people through messages that discourage adherence to extremism and all other types of violence.

Young people who had deviated and joined ranks within extremist groups and were willing to reform would also be embraced and reiterated back to society, the religious leaders say. 

They also express a “permanent commitment” to pray together for lasting peace and to always collaborate with the government, institutions and organizations dedicated to the cause of establishing peace in the Province of Cabo Delgado.