The provisional closure of several Catholic Church missions in the province of Cabo Delgado is one of the direct consequences of the climate of insecurity in this region where, since October 2017, violent attacks by terrorist groups have taken place.
Father Kwiriwi Fonseca, one of the heads of communication for the Diocese of Pemba, explains to Aid to the Church in Need that, “just to be aware, there is only a priest in Mueda, where he is relatively safe”. “In the rest” of the region, adds this priest, “[priests and religious] are outside the work area, the mission area”.
Father Edegard Silva Júnior, Saletino missionary in Muidumbe, in the Diocese of Pemba, published in the newsletter of the Pontifical Mission Societies an article on the situation in Cabo Delgado in which this reality is mentioned.
In June, the missionaries even wrote a message to the communities explaining the need to leave the places where they were placed. A letter in which they express the “hope that soon” they will be able to return, asking for everyone’s prayers so that the violent environment will end for good and that “everyone can return to their work and celebrations”.
In this letter, the missionaries also affirm that they pray “daily for all people and communities”, and that they “miss the community” a lot, wishing that this time of violence ends “so that we can return to serving all we always did ”.
There have been many extremely violent attacks in Cabo Delgado province by armed groups claiming to belong to Daesh, the Islamic State. This was the case in Auasse on 12 May. The Benedictine monks had to leave the monastery , fleeing into the bush where they remained hidden until they managed to leave the region.
One example of the extreme violence that has prevented the presence of missionaries in their parishes or mission places, was the July attack on Mocímboa da Praia , which resulted in the complete destruction of the parish church building.
“Hundreds of people in the territory of our parish and other missions see families and families moving from place to place daily looking for a little peace, and in many cases, families end up divided and lost in the bush looking for safe places. All of this generates immense challenges that break the heart of a missionary when seeing the people without a home, without food, and at night having to seek refuge in the woods or not knowing where to go with what little remains of their belongings”