Three districts in the north of Mozambique– Mocímboa da Praia, Quissanga and Muidumbe have suffered heavy attacks by jihadists – including the recent targeting of churches during Holy Week – which have been attributed to extremist group Islamic State (ISIS).
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Pemba, in Cabo Delgado region, said that:
“Seven small towns or villages were attacked in fact during the days of Holy Week, among others that of Muambula where the Catholic mission of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is situated, in Nangololo.
“They attacked the church and burnt the benches and a statue of Our Lady, made of ebony. They also destroyed an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom the parish is dedicated”.
“The tragic thing for us is that this mission in Nangololo is almost 100 years old and is the second most important mission in the diocese. So, it was a very tragic attack in what it symbolises.”
“They had already attacked and burnt five or six local chapels, but they also burned some mosques. Although ultimately, it seems, the target is the Christian churches”, he said.
The bishop described how 52 young people in Muidumbe District were massacred on 7th April for refusing to join the extremists.
He explained that it was unclear who was behind the attacks: “The most recent attacks have apparently been claimed by the Islamic State, but there are still doubts about this.
“Some people are saying that it is a local group which began small and is using the name of Islamic State, while others say that it really is the Islamic State. All we can say is that we don’t know for certain.”