ACN to launch projects for displaced persons in Nigeria and Mozambique
By Lisa Zengarini
The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), will launch two newly approved projects to help Christian communities fleeing Islamist militias in Nigeria and Mozambique. Over the past years, the upsurge of attacks by local and transnational Jihadi groups in several African countries has forced thousands of people to leave their homes and livelihoods causing major humanitarian crises. Among them, Mozambique and Nigeria are the most hit by the violence.
The conflict in Cabo Delgado
Since 2020 northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado has seen an escalation of attacks by Islamist insurgents linked to the so-called Islamic State targeting state authorities, the military, police forces, and civilians, both Christian and Muslim. Two-thirds of these attacks have been carried out against civilians, displacing an estimated 730,000 people since 2017, when the insurgency began.
Boko Haram in Nigeria
Similarly, in Nigeria local communities have been exposed for over ten years to terrorist attacks and kidnappings by Boko Haram Islamist militias in the context of long-standing issues of religious and ethnic violence. Violence escalated dramatically in 2014, with over 10,000 killed, while the terrorist group which has more recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, has drastically expanded its territories.
The two projects
In this context, ACN is sponsoring two new projects to help Catholics fleeing Islamic violence in the two African countries. The projects add to over 25 relief initiatives it sponsored in 2020 for a sum total of over 1.7 million Euros. The first project will benefit St. Paul Parish in Pulka, which hosts many Christian refugees escaping the city of Maiduguri, in Nigeria's Borno State. Attacks by Islamic militias are very frequent here and the parish priests are in urgent need of drinking water for the refugees. ACN's Italian office is collecting money to build a well, equipped with a pump powered by solar panels. The second project is intended for the Diocese of Quelimane, in Mozambique, which is helping Christian refugees from Cabo Delgado. The funds raised will support its relief efforts for 500 displaced families living in the area.
Violence causing growing poverty
Commenting on the two projects, ACN's Italian office director, Alessandro Monteduro, noted that in addition to causing victims, jihadi violence also destroys infrastructures, and results in the loss of livelihoods and the forced displacement of farmers who can’t harvest their crops, thus resulting in famine. He also warned of the risk that some frustrated youth might be tempted by extreme poverty and extremist propaganda to join the ranks of the jihadi militias. “The combination of these factors will probably force the international community to react, not so much out of noble reasons but to stem the growing migratory pressure from Africa”, he said.