Two Catholic missionary sisters held for over three weeks by Islamic State-affiliated rebels in Mozambique were freed on September 6. The Sisters of St Joseph of Chambéry announced with “deep gratitude” that two Brazilian members of their order, Sr Maria Inez Leite Ramos and Sr Eliane Costa Santana, were released without harm 24 days after being kidnapped.
The congregation added that the two sisters were resting after their ordeal and receiving medical checks just outside the province of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique, where they were originally seized by rebels.
The Cabo Delgado region, which borders Tanzania, has been ravaged by an extremist insurgency which began in 2017, with attacks escalating in the past year. In August, rebels claiming to belong to the Islamic State group managed to take control of the port city of Mocimboa da Praia on the Indian Ocean coast, where the two sisters were eventually released.
The order thanked the local bishop for his work: “The Congregation is very grateful for the work of Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa of Pemba, Mozambique and others, who along with other governmental agencies, were able to secure their safe release.”
Bishop Fernando Lisboa told Vatican News in August that he had spoken to Pope Francis about the kidnapping of the two sisters when the Pope called out of concern about developments in Cabo Delgado.
“I told the Holy Father about the port town of Mocimboa da Praia which has been taken by jihadists, and how we had not heard from two of our religious women in that city,” the bishop said. “Upon hearing the news, the Pope exclaimed, ‘How very sad!’ He promised to pray for this intention.”
The Bishop of Pemba also spoke to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the events, informing it that around 60 people had been seeking shelter at the sisters’ convent prior to the kidnappings and that, since then, “some of them managed to escape and left Mocimboa and others are still there”.
The bishop requested prayers for those still missing, as did the order of St Joseph of Chambéry, whose statement included a prayer request “for all of the people in that part of Mozambique who have been displaced and harmed by the rebels”.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the three-year insurgency in northern Mozambique has so far killed more than 1,000 civilians and over 800 combatants.
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