Catholic Bishop Recounts Atrocities Terrorists are Committing in Northern Mozambique

Bishop Alberto Vera Aréjula of Nacala Diocese in Mozambique. Credit: ACN

The Catholic Bishop of  Nacala Diocese in Mozambique has, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, recounted atrocities that groups of terrorists are committing in the Northern part of the country.

In a report that ACN published October 6, Bishop Alberto Vera Aréjula of Nacala Diocese recounts the “gruesome attack” on those identified as Christians that took place on September 7, the day after a member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters (CMS), Sr. Maria De Coppi, had been shot dead following a terrorist attack on the Comboni Mission of Chipene in Mozambique’s Nacala Diocese.

The targeted attack on Christians that involved slitting of throats, Bishop Aréjula told ACN, “was told to us by one of the brothers of one of the victims. He said the terrorists were dressed in military uniform, they gathered the population, and they said it was because they were here to save them.”

The Spanish-born member of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy (Mercedarians) is said to have added in reference to the population that the terrorists gathered on September 7, “When they were all gathered, they started asking who is Muslim and who is Christian. Those who identified as Christian, they started tying their hands behind their back and they cut their throats.

“One Christian managed to flee and he is the one who told the story,” Bishop Aréjula is quoted as saying, adding that the events “happened on the night of 6th September and the following day – 11 people were murdered in total and they left a trail of destruction and a lot of fear”.


In the October 6 ACN report, the 65-year-old Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in May 2015 as Auxiliary Bishop of Mozambique’s Xai-Xai Diocese recalls the late CMS member, Sr. de Coppi, saying, “I knew her and she was the image of a mother, she was really helping everyone with simple love and humility. And we will open a process to establish whether she was martyred.” 

The Local Ordinary of Nacala Diocese who doubles as the Liaison Bishop of Caritas Mozambique adds, “Sister Maria de Coppi was a nurse who would help malnourished children in a little room where there was milk and flour, and they destroyed that room as well.”

“The Sister they murdered worked with malnourished babies and children, they are telling us very clearly they don’t want us there,” Bishop Aréjula lamented, adding in reference to the Comboni Mission of Chipene in his Episcopal See, “For now, we won’t return there, but we will work with the mission in another way.”

The attack on the Catholic Parish “wasn’t strictly a religious conflict”, he told ACN.

 “Those with the fundamentalist Islamic agenda are generally foreigners. They are building mosques and creating confusion with the other Muslim,” the Catholic Bishop said, and added, “In Nacala, there are at least four different groups of Muslims who are markedly different. The real Muslims feel united with Christians and they live side-by-side.”

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Bishop Aréjula who was appointed Local Ordinary of Nacala in April 2018 is quoted as further saying, “The leader of this movement, whether it is jihadist, terrorist, criminal, benefit from this situation for monetary reasons – they want us to see it as a religious struggle but I don’t agree. I’m not the only person who thinks this.”

In an interview with ACI Africa on October 6, Bishop Aréjula said the people of God in Cabo Delgado and other Provinces in the North of Mozambique are experiencing “a new style of warfare” amid terrorist attacks.

“We are seeing a new style of warfare, a type of guerrilla warfare, not an ordinary war,” he said, and explained, “Guerrilla warfare is more difficult to control, because a group of six or eight can do a lot of harm.”

Bishop Aréjula also told ACI Africa that the situation in his Episcopal See had become relatively calm as the “the army has succeeded in building a barrier between Chipene and Memba districts in a bid to stop the insurgents from gaining access to Nacala harbor, the deepest natural port on the East coast of Africa.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.