The Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has approved two important projects to help Christian communities in Nigeria and Mozambique. Local and transnational jihadist groups are systematically persecuting Christians and Muslims in many parts of Africa who do not accept their extremist ideology. The resulting movement of fleeing populations, either internally displaced persons or refugees in neighbouring countries, is a severe and unresolved humanitarian problem.
Transnational terrorist groups linking with locals
In 2020 in Mozambique, specifically in the Province of Cabo Delgado, incidents of violence by Islamist terrorist movements increased significantly, with two-thirds of these being conducted against civilians. There are currently more than 730,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Niassa, Nampula, Zambezia and Sofala. The perpetrators of the attacks are, in many cases, mercenaries or local fighters pursuing equally local interests. However, they are incited by extremist preachers and armed by transnational terrorist groups, who target state authorities, the military, police forces and civilians, both Christian and Muslim.
ACN appeals for funds to help Nigeria
In response to this emergency, Aid to the Church in Need, which in 2020 funded more than 25 refugee initiatives around the world, primarily Christian, for a total of over €1.7 million, has approved two projects to help Catholics in Nigeria and Mozambique fleeing the violence of Islamic terrorists. St Paul's Parish in Pulka, Nigeria, is on the flight path of Christians leaving the city of Maiduguri in search of a safe place. Attacks by Islamic terrorists are very frequent, and the priests of the parish are in urgent need of drinking water for the refugees. ACN is appealing to benefactors and the Italian Catholic community to raise funds to build a borehole equipped with a pump powered by solar panels.
Funds to help Quelimane Diocese feed those fleeing
The second project is destined for the Diocese of Quelimane, in Mozambique, where hundreds of persons fleeing from the Province of Cabo Delgado find refuge. All the parishes in Quelimane are committed to helping refugees, especially women and children. The funds raised will allow diocesan workers distribute food, hygiene products, seeds and small tools for cultivating the fields by 500 displaced families.
Oppressive poverty and food insecurity fuelling violence
"In addition to casualties, the violence in Cabo Delgado, has led to the destruction of infrastructure, loss of livestock and the forced displacement of farmers from their land, making harvesting impossible. Add to this the increase in food prices resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the effect of these different causes is called famine," comments Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN Italy.
He adds, "There is a further serious risk: Young people frustrated by oppressive poverty and exposed to extremist preaching are tempted to join the ranks of jihadists. The combination of these factors should force the international community to act, if not so much for noble reasons, at least to stem the growing migratory pressure from African shores," Monteduro concludes.