Displaced new arrivals in Pemba diocese, Mozambique, December 2020. (Photo courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need)
The Bishops of IMBISA (the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of South Africa) are appealing to regional governments and the international community to do more to resolve the ongoing crisis in Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.
Islamist militants have been launching violent attacks in the province since 2017, causing at least 2,500 deaths and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Last week, the UN’s World Food program said the latest attacks have affected more than 50,000 people and left thousands homeless.
The Bishops of IMBISA – representing the episcopates of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa and Zimbabwe – met Tuesday to discuss the “unfortunate developments” in Cabo Delgado, especially in the town of Palma, the site of the most recent attacks.
The problem of inequality
A statement signed by IMBISA President Lucio Andrice Muandual, Bishop of Xai-Xai, Mozambique, says the bishops focused especially on the situation of young people, who are especially exposed to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has “highlighted the major economic and social inequalities suffered by all southern African countries,” the statement says.
“The problem of inequality, especially economic inequality, has left many young people exposed to exploitation by those who foment violence and other social ills.”
The Bishops denounce the current situation as an offence against the dignity of the human person, and especially the “sacrosanct right to life” and the rights of “a people to live in peace in their own land.”
They welcome the statement issued last week by the Mozambique Episcopal Conference which condemned violence in Cabo Delgado, while also decrying outside groups seeking to seize resources.
Finding lasting solutions
Noting other positive developments, IMBISA praises the efforts of the Church and other institutions to aid victims, and say they are encouraged by efforts of the South African Development Community (SADC) to find lasting solutions to regional issues.
The Bishops, however, also appeals to the SADC and the African Union to do more to resolve the crisis in Mozambique. They also call on the Mozambican government to “spare no effort” to engage the international community to help quell the violence.
At the same time, they ask regional governments to rethink economic systems that reinforce prevailing inequalities, saying young people must “be at the heart of economic development” in south African countries.