MOZAMBIQUE: ‘How many more must die before the world acts?’

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).

A priest has expressed fears over the fate of the faithful who fled Palma, in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, following Monday’s (29th March) attack.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father António Chamboco said that, with thousands still missing, he is deeply concerned for the lives of his parishioners, as “almost nothing is known” about their whereabouts.

Members of the militant Islamist network Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack on the port town, which is estimated to have made more than 50,000 homeless.

Father Chamboco, who was away from Palma when jihadists attacked on Monday, said: “When I heard about the attack, I felt pain and sadness – pain because I have been in Palma for a year and had already grown to love the people, the community there.”

Initially, he kept in touch with the situation in Palma via the phone but, as the assault in the town intensified, he was cut off.

The priest said: “I was in contact with two coordinators from the Catholic community during the first phase [of the attack].

“When the [telephone] network was still working, they informed me that there was some shooting, but five minutes later there was no communication.”

Father Chamboco did manage to locate the whereabouts of his two parish coordinators.

He said: “I was able to reach one of them near the Tanzanian border. When he fled the attacks, he went to Tanzania and is still there.”

According to a woman who escaped from Palma, the other parish coordinator sought refuge in Nangade.

A video sent to ACN, reportedly taken in Palma after the attack, shows decapitated and mutilated bodies.

Ulrich Kny, ACN Project Head for Mozambique, said: “The images we have seen are shocking. We cannot even share them because they wound human dignity by their brutality.”

He added: “We wonder how many more deaths there must be before the world does something to stop this violence. These lives do not seem to count. It tears my heart out.”

Mr Kny said ACN has helped the local Church with more than £135,000 in emergency aid, including supporting priests and Sisters ministering to internal refugees.

In conclusion, Father António Chamboco said: “We pray during this Holy Week that Christ, with his suffering, death and resurrection, will bring relief to the people who are suffering at this time.

“We need to pray and trust in God to help and alleviate all these problems in Cabo Delgado province.”

Cabo Delgado has suffered jihadist attacks since October 2017. According to the United Nations, more than 670,000 were displaced and more than 2,500 died up to the end of 2020.