Mozambique’s bishops lament Islamist violence in Palma

GettyImages 1164625682 A woman stands in a burned out area after an extremist attack on the village of Aldeia da Paz, Mozambique, Aug. 24, 2019. | AFP via Getty Images.

The Catholic bishops of Mozambique on Friday condemned the attack by Islamist militant insurgents on Palma, a city in Cabo Delgado province.

“We deplore and condemn all acts of barbarism committed in Cabo Delgado, defenseless people are killed, injured and abused. They see their possessions plundered, the privacy of their homes violated, their homes destroyed and the corpses of their family members desecrated,” the bishops commented in their April 16 declaration, which was obtained by Aid to the Church in Need.

Militants invaded Palma March 24, seizing the city, and attacking and destroying shops, banks, and government buildings. They also attacked convoys trying to escape the town.

Dozens of people were killed in the attack, according to local officials, including seven foreigners. At least 11,000 locals fled as a result of the insurgency.

The attack is part of a years-long conflict with Islamist extremists in the region. According to the BBC, more than 2,500 people have killed in the fighting since 2017, and 700,000 displaced. 

Control of Palma was regained by the Mozambican military by April 5.

The Mozambican bishops discussed the violence in Cabo Delgado at their plenary assembly in Maputo.

The people of the province, they said, “are forced to abandon the land that saw them born and where their ancestors are buried. These of our peers, mostly women and children, are pushed to the precipice of insecurity and fear. We deplore the prevalence of this state of affairs, with no clear indication that there will soon be an overcoming of the causes that fuel this conflict.”

“We will continue to redouble efforts to help the helpless and welcome the displaced, providing them with listening and consolation, in addition to means of support shared by believers” they said. 

Reflecting on Mozambique’s overall situation, the bishops said that “we regret the prevailing insecurity in the populations of the center of the country and are unhappy with the food insecurity and hunger that affect other populations.”

The bishops attributed much of the country’s division to a lack of transparency, subtraction in infrastructure, and scarce job opportunities. They acknowledged that the lack of hope in a dignified future motivates some of Mozambique’s young people to join the various forms of insurgency. 

“For most of them,” the bishops said, “there are no opportunities to build a dignified life.” 

Because of disenfranchisement among Mozambique’s young people, the bishops acknowledged that it is easy to entice and trick them with false promises of a new social order and enrichment.  

However, they made it clear that “nothing justifies violence. Neither the difficult situation, the lack of a collective perspective, shared as a nation, nor resentments, nor intolerance or party interests, whether of a religious, political or economic nature, must lead us astray, towards any kind of insurgency.”

The bishops called for peace, an effort to create more jobs, and better access to the benefits of natural resources. They called on national and international organizations to work together in helping and people displaced, suffering from hunger, or the pandemic.

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