Mozambique: Bishop Battles Jihadists

Source: FSSPX News

Antonio Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo Bishop of Pemba

In Mozambique, a bishop is warning against jihadist attacks of which his faithful are the first targets, leading part of the population to choose the route of exile. All of this is taking place amidst the almost general indifference of the media, whose attention remains focused on the conflicts taking place in Ukraine and Gaza.

“We risk forgetting the victims here because of other wars taking place elsewhere in the world.” Bishop Antonio Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo's call for help was relayed by the association Aid to the Church in Need.

The Bishop of Pemba – Diocese of Cabo Delgado, in the north of Mozambique, a region which has become the favorite terrain of armed Islamist groups – indicates that entire villages belonging to his ecclesiastical district have been wiped off the map.

The prelate was even forced to send missionaries on the roads, as close as possible to the people who are now choosing the path of exile, in order to provide them with the support of Mass and the sacraments.

It is an exodus encouraged by the macabre exploits of jihadists who have taken to filming their abuses in order to instill terror: on January 12, 2023 a video showing soldiers throwing corpses on a pile of burning household objects in the north of the country has gone viral. It gives a fair overview of what is happening far from Western eyes, at the heart of a forgotten war.

Cabo Delgado – a region of strategic importance particularly due to its gas resources – has in fact been grappling with violence from armed jihadist groups for more than five years. The Mozambican army, supported since 2021 by soldier from Rwanda and from neighboring countries, struggles to impose itself.

According to the United Nations Organization for Migrants, a new outbreak of jihadist insurgency in Cabo Delgado has uprooted at least 14,000 people in recent weeks, many of them children fleeing violence by bus, by canoe, and on foot. Much of the violence has been directed against Christian targets, in a country where Christianity makes up around 60% of the population.

“The violence perpetrated in the region over the past two weeks has been such that a dozen villages, some very populated, have been targeted, leading to the destruction of homes, schools and hospitals. In these villages, all the Christian chapels were destroyed,” specifies Bishop Sandramo.

The bishop of Pemba reports testimonies from religious who accompany the faithful in their exile: they flee carrying only a bundle on their head, in the best case using the family bicycle, if they have one. 

“They are fleeing to save their lives, so as not to share the fate of those who were beheaded or shot,” laments the Bishop of Pemba who fears that from now on, “thirst, hunger, and disease” will catch up with them.

Just before Christmas 2023, on the ground, the Mozambican army claimed that 90% of Cabo Delgado had been secured, but independent analysts warned that the jihadists had only made a tactical retreat and would fight back sooner or later. This is what has been happening for several weeks.

The Sovereign Pontiff alluded to the situation during the Angelus on February 18: “Violence against defenseless populations, the destruction of infrastructure and insecurity are once again rife in the province of Cabo Delgado, in Mozambique, where the Catholic mission of Notre-Dame d’Afrique in Mazezeze was also burned in recent days,” he said at the time.