MOZAMBIQUE: Church promoting interfaith dialogue in conflict zone

The construction of a parish church in Pemba Diocese, Mozambique.
The construction of a parish church in Pemba Diocese, Mozambique.

The Church is set to launch an interreligious dialogue and peace initiative which aims to end armed violence in northern Mozambique.

The initiative seeks to resolve tensions caused by the militant insurgency which began in 2017 in the Cabo Delgado region and has since killed more than 4,000 people and displaced around one million.

Father Eduardo Roca, a local parish priest and project partner of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), founded the Interreligious Centre for Peace in Pemba Diocese, which is overseeing the initiative, in 2017.

Father Roca told ACN: “The Catholic Church is not only concerned, it is engaged and seriously committed to do whatever it can for the peace negotiations.”

He explained that this commitment already exists “at the religious level, but also at the academic level and among the local communities”.

Father Roca said events planned for the coming months include “meetings with some 50 leaders of Muslim and Christian organisations to study and promote the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar [Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb] in Abu Dhabi”.

He added: “We are encouraging parish priests to create interreligious groups, and we are providing training in all the northern districts to promote interreligious dialogue and create bridges for people to meet and talk to each other in safety.”

Mozambique’s Episcopal Conference issued a pastoral letter in November 2022 signalling the Church’s involvement in the peace process for Cabo Delgado.

The letter highlighted the need for dialogue, instead of armed force, to end terrorism in the country.

According to Father Roca, the Church is in a good position to help advance the dialogue, because of its presence on the ground and its contact with even the remotest communities.

ACN’s help for the Church in Mozambique includes supporting vital pastoral initiatives, building new community centres, backing social projects and providing vehicles for missionaries working with displaced people.