Bishop of Pemba speaking for Cabo Delgado’s voiceless
Paul Samasumo - Vatican City
“This is not a time for forgetfulness. The crisis we are facing (COVID-19) should not make us forget the many other crises that bring suffering to so many people. May the Lord of life be close to all those in Asia and Africa who are experiencing grave humanitarian crises, as in the Province of Cabo Delgado in the north of Mozambique,” prayed Pope Francis on Easter Sunday.
A crisis that does not make headlines
What is happening in Cabo Delgado is a humanitarian crisis that rarely hits the headlines.
“Indifference, self-centredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time,” said the Pope. These words “seem to prevail when fear and death overwhelm us,” and we want to ban them forever, he added.
For almost two years now, the northern part of Mozambique has been rocked by deadly attacks perpetrated by groups in the Province of Cabo Delgado. The attacks have resulted in many deaths and the displacement of villagers from their homes and farms. Generally, there is also a climate of fear in the area. The region holds one of the world’s most significant untapped offshore gas fields.
Voice of the voiceless
One person who has been speaking out and urging the Mozambican Government to defend the people is Diocese of Pemba’s Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa, C.P. He has, on several occasions, spoken to Vatican News.
As a result of his outspokenness, the Brazilian-born Bishop Lisboa has received criticism and even death threats.
Bishop Lisboa, whose Diocese of Pemba, falls under the Province of Cabo Delgado has said poverty in the area is one of the significant causes leading young, disillusioned and vulnerable Mozambicans into the hands of violent groups. Some of the gangs operating the region have links to Islamic extremists. In contrast, other gangs are said to have connections to groups and mercenaries of the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo regions. No one knows for sure. If the Mozambican Government knows, it is not saying so publicly.
The hidden enemy has no face
Bishop Lisboa speaks of a “hidden enemy” because no one knows precisely who is behind the attacks or the motives for some of the horrible acts witnessed.
“The hidden enemy has no face, no proposal, no interlocutor with whom one can talk,” The Bishop cautions against the simplistic approach of dismissing all attacks as the work of Islamic militants. What is clear and palpable, the Bishop says, is that there is real anger and ferocity to the violence. He regrets that despite the rise in the appalling attacks, the response of the central Government in Maputo has been unsatisfactory.
Need for stability and equitable share of national resources
The Bishop of Pemba alludes to years of neglect of the northern territories by the central Government as one of the contributing factors to the poverty and disenchantment leading young men to join gangs.
According to the Bishop, with the discovery of offshore gas fields, the people of Cabo Delgado have become the target of a real invasion of all manner of people from different backgrounds, companies and projects. The Bishop stresses that ordinarily, such wealth should generate employment and hope for the youth of the area in the sharing of benefits resulting from the discovery.
Pope Francis: Christ has defeated darkness
The people of Cabo Delgado now know that Pope Francis is praying for them and that he accompanies them in their suffering.
Concluding the Easter Urbi et Orbi message, Pope Francis prayed: “May Christ, who has already defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal Salvation, dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of His glorious day.”