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Photo Credit: ACN
Photo Credit: ACN
World News

Mozambique bishop raises alarm as jihadist attacks destroy Christian chapels

by Tola Mbakwe

As violence escalates in Mozambique, Bishop António Juliasse of Pemba Diocese has openly criticised the insurgent attacks that have led to the destruction of all Christian chapels in a village and forced tens of thousands of people in the country to flee their homes.

The Cabo Delgado province has been ravaged by a surge in deadly attacks since the start of the year. In one recent attack on 9th February, up to 25 Mozambique Defence Armed Force soldiers were reportedly killed, striking a significant blow to government efforts to suppress violence during an election year.

A senior government official revealed that over 67,000 people had fled their homes due to these attacks, seeking refuge in neighbouring province Nampula and safer regions of Cabo Delgado.

Bishop António told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that militant groups affiliated with Daesh (ISIS) have raided more than 12 villages, resulting in the destruction of all Christian chapels.

The bishop emphasised his priority was to provide shelter for those forced to leave their homes. "They are fleeing from villages that have been reduced to ashes, and those whose villages might be next in line are also running," he said. He expressed concerns about impending hunger and disease spread among those displaced.

Although Christians are a minority in predominantly Muslim northern Mozambique, ACN notes that historically, the two communities have coexisted peacefully. This harmony was disrupted when an armed insurgency broke out in 2017. The charity reported that extremist groups typically target civilian and state-owned institutions, but attacks on specifically Christian communities have also occurred.

UNICEF's Mozambique spokesperson Guy Taylor expressed concern about the majority of displaced individuals being women and children. Tertius Jacobs, head analyst for Mozambique at risk management firm Focus Group, reported 56 incidents of insurgent-led aggression this year alone.

ACN's support in Mozambique includes pastoral assistance, counselling for internally displaced persons (IDPs), vehicles for missionaries, and the construction of homes and community centres.

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