Intimidation of Christians in Guinea-Bissau Threatening Decades of Peace: Catholic Charity

Casimiro Jorge Cajucam, the Director of Sol Mansi, a Diocesan radio station in Guinea-Bissau. Credit: ACN

The long-standing cordial relationship between Christians and Muslims in Guinea-Bissau is under threat with the ongoing religious-based intimidation that targets churches, the Catholic Pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), has said.

According to the charity foundation that supports the people of God in countries experiencing extremism, recent activities in Guinea-Bissau, including a church vandalization, bribing Christians to convert to Islam, as well as the springing up of Mosques in every part of the country casts a dark shadow over the future of Christianity in the West African nation.

“First was the attack, never seen before in Guinea-Bissau, on a church. It was in July. Then, in September, the government decided to suspend tax exemptions for the Catholic Church. In the middle of all this and for some time now, the construction of new mosques has been proliferating throughout the country,” ACN says in a Friday, December 9 report.

The Catholic charity spoke to Casimiro Jorge Cajucam, the Director of Sol Mansi, a Diocesan radio station supported by the foundation, who warned of the worrying signs that the Portuguese-speaking African country will become an “Islamic state”.

In the interview with ACN, Casimiro Cajucam warned about the risk of Guinea-Bissau “falling into the clutches of religious extremism.”


The 40-year-old who was born in the city of Bissau belongs to the Christ the Redeemer Parish and is the Director of the only Diocesan radio station in the whole country. 

ACN reports that after decades of peace between Christians and Muslims in Guinea-Bissau, Catholics woke up, one day, to a desecrated parish church of Santa Isabel de Gabú of Bafatá Diocese in the eastern part of the country.

“Something like this had never happened in the entire history of the country, with the destruction of images and the desecration of the temple,” ACN says, about the desecration.

The vandalization was reportedly widely condemned all over the country by people of various religions.

The country's President, Umaro El Mokhtar Sissoco Embalo, was, however, criticized for downplaying the vandalism.

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The President was quoted as saying there was nothing unusual about what had happened and police would deal with the matter.

“How often have we seen fans and air conditioners stolen from Mosques? Once I went to pray in the Cupelum Mosque in Bissau. That day unidentified people stole all the shoes of Muslim worshippers who were inside the mosque praying. Even in the Vatican and Mecca, theft happens,” said President Embalo.

Describing the president’s statement as “unfortunate”, Casimiro Cajucam says in the December 9 report, “It leaves us all worried. It was an unfortunate statement; I expected an apology afterward from the president, but unfortunately, that never happened.”

Casimiro Cajucam notes that the attack came at a time when hundreds of mosques are popping up all over the country. 

Additionally, Christians in remote villages in one of the poorest African countries are being paid to convert to Islam, he says.


“In the last ten years, hundreds of mosques have been built. There is a proliferation of mosques in Guinea-Bissau that are financed by very rich Arab countries. There are people in the villages, Christians, and non-Christians, who are funded to convert to Islam. We are facing that threat,’ Casimiro Cajucam says.

In September, two months after the attack on the church in Gabu, the charity foundation notes, the government announced the suspension of tax exemptions for the Catholic Church, equating the Church to “a simple NGO, a non-governmental organization.”

His objective, Casimiro Cajucam says, is “to cut the legs off the Catholic Church.”

“The Catholic Church is one of the only entities in the country with moral authority, with credibility, it's hard to get dragged into political whims and of course, it becomes a target,” Casimiro Cajucam says, and explains, “The goal, to me, is to mutilate the efforts, the actions of the Catholic Church that almost does what the government should do.”

In the interview with ACN, Casimiro Cajucam spoke of a serious threat to Christianity in the country, saying, “There are politicians who are trying everything to transform Guinea-Bissau, to take it from a secular state to put it as an Islamic state. There is that trend and that is a threat.”

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The Director of Sol Mansi radio is concerned about the signs of religious extremism that have been accumulating in the life of this small Portuguese-speaking African country, despite the historically good relationship between Christians and Muslims.

He speaks of a "rehearsal" for a terrorist attack when referring to the incidents at the church in Gabu, adding, “What happened in the parish in Gabu, for many, is the first rehearsal for a terrorist attack. It has never happened before."

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.