MOZAMBIQUE: He chose Christ

Image from refugee settlements housing those who fled Cabo Delgado Province. (Image by Johan Viljoen © Aid to the Church in Need)
Image from refugee settlements housing those who fled Cabo Delgado Province. (Image by Johan Viljoen © Aid to the Church in Need)

Reports have emerged of how a Christian man in Mozambique risked his life by refusing to convert to Islam after extremists seized him and held him captive in the bush.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Kwiriwi Fonseca, of Pemba diocese, said the man, who cannot be named for security reasons, turned down the opportunity to convert knowing those who had done the same had been killed.  

Father Fonseca said: “We met a Christian who was told ‘Do you want to stay here and become Muslim or do you want to go home?’ It’s risky as some of the people who say they want to go home are slaughtered on the spot.”

The priest added: “He knew he would be killed but he said it is better to go home. The men decided he could go home, it’s very mysterious.”

Kidnapping is a tactic frequently used by the jihadists who have been waging an insurgency in Mozambique since 2017.

The United Nations states at least 2,600 people have been killed and more than 700,000 made homeless.

According to Father Fonseca, even religious Sisters have been taken hostage.

He said: “First of all, we have experienced two Sisters being kidnapped in the bush.

“The Sisters were not forced to convert to Islam. The treatment was good but [the abductors] wanted some money.”

The priest added: “The terrorists called the bishops from the bush and said if you want the Sisters we want money… [The Sisters were told] you can remain if you want but if you want to go home someone will have to pay.

“The two of them are now in Brazil. They have been sharing their experiences.”

Father Fonseca said, however, that many other kidnapped women are subjected to sexual violence.

He said: “I have been talking with some other women. They suffer being forced to make love and marry the fighter. They do want to make them be Muslim but they don’t have the ritual to make them Muslim.

“It can happen, as they are able to do anything. They can do what they want.”

Father Fonseca previously told ACN that terrorists in Mozambique were abducting children to become soldiers or brides.

He said: “The terrorists use these children and forcibly train them to fight in their ranks, whereas the girls are raped and forced to become their ‘brides’.”

Last March, ACN agreed emergency aid of €160,000 (£136,500) to Mozambique, providing beans, flour, cooking oil and other foodstuffs for displaced people facing famine.