Monday, May 4, 2020
Mgr. Luiz Fernando Lisboa, Bishop of the Diocese of Pemba, has just written a letter to the Mozambican authorities, asking them to listen the cry for help of the thousands of Mozambicans living in the province of Cabo Delgado. In the letter, the prelate summarizes the dramatic situation in which the people of the north of the country is going through, from the beginning of the conflict in October 2017 until today.
On Easter Day, April 12, Pope Francis, in the blessing “Urbi et Orbi”, has called for a quick resolution of the humanitarian crisis that is plaguing Cabo Delgado, the Province of the Republic of Mozambique bordering Tanzania to the north.
The events are becoming more and more dramatic. We need only recall the massacre of 52 young people who refused to join the ranks of the insurgents and who were shot dead in the village of Xitaxi Muambala District on the 9 of April; the increase in the number of people fleeing to the provincial capital, Pemba, because of the cruelty of the insurgent attacks; the cholera epidemic that is devastating part of the province; and now the appearance of Covid-19, in Cabo Delgado, which already counts half of the infected people of the country.
Facing this tragic scenario, a voice, that calls to help Cabo Delgado has long been raised by Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa, Bishop of Pemba, who, from the very beginning, did not fail to alert the authorities and civil society in general, about the drama that the population of northern Cabo Delgado has been experiencing since 2017.
Below we publish the full text of the letter of Bishop Luiz Lisboa.
Cabo Delgado cry for help, Mozambique! Mgr. Luiz Fernando Lisboa
«I hereby express my deep indignation at what has being happening in the Province of Cabo Delgado from the 4th of October 2017 to today, the 24th of April 2020:
Since the first attacks, the insurgents made it clear that their target was the Government and the FDS (Força de Defesa e Segurança: The mozambican army), but over time, to show their strength and to call the attention of society and of the Government, they began to attack defenceless populations with cruelty refinements (cutting heads);
During the first year, they attacked people in the small villages far from the main towns; during the second year they started attacking lorries, cars and public transport (chapas) preventing, in this way, the access to many places of the concerned Districts;
At the beginning of the lasts months of 2019, they began to attack large villages close to the main roads, such as Mbau (Mocímboa), Miangalewa and Xitunda (Muedumbe), Litingina (Nangade), among others;
Since the beginning of 2020 they dared more and started to attack the mais towns: at the end of January they attacked Quissanga and burned the Technical School of Bilibiza; on the 23rd of March, they attacked the town of Mocímboa da Praia, setting fire to local government infrastructure, banks, commerce, aerodrome (airport) and even the small harbour; on March 25, they attacked Quissanga for the second time, whose population had already been “abandoned” by local structures and authorities; during Holy Week, they attacked 7 Muidumbe Villages, including Muambula District, where the Nangololo Mission is located, whose church was devastated and its benches and sacred images burned; but the most tragic event happened in the village of Xitaxi, in the same District, where 52 young people were killed for not accepting to enlist in their group; it was the biggest massacre since the beginning of the attacks; the Church of Cabo Delgado is already considering them as “Martyrs of Xitaxi”;
At the beginning of the attacks, the villages that were attacked were left empty because the population fled to the main towns; at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 the populations from all the Northern Districts of Cabo Delgado, because of the intensified attacks, started to settle in the capital city of the Province, Pemba, and in the other main towns Districts of the Central and South Zone of the Province; we can well calculate that more them 200 thousand displaced people are looking for a safe place to stay;
The “insurgents (as they are called)” attacked several military and PRM (Mozambican Police) bases, seizing food, weapons, clothes, cars, killing many members of the FDS and forcing many to flee in humiliation;
The last attacks of the “insurgents” are made on big scale, that is, with a lot of armaments, with uniforms of the FDS, with flags and, amazingly, by land and by sea;
There are many children separated from their parents; when there are attacks the members of a family are not always able to stay together, thus causing even greater suffering; in Pemba, in late January, a woman arrived with 12 children, only two of them were hers, the others she had found hidden in the wood;
The economic losses are incalculable, both for public goods, but mainly for the population, because thousands of houses are burned together with their wide-ranging belongings (clothes, food, furniture...);
It is very difficult to exactly calculate the real number of human lives already lost; the number it will probably exceed 500 people, but the numbers of deaths among the FDS, or among the “insurgents”, are never reported; nevertheless some sources say that it might exceeds 1000 dead;
Hunger is another tragic reality because in the past two years the families have not been farming and now they live on help in the homes of acquaintances and family members, causing even more hunger as there is not enough food for everyone;
Some Non-Governmental Organizations - NGOs – have been essential with their support to the population (food, tents, school supplies, medicines, assistance at various levels;
In the Northern Region of the Province, “sleeping in the bush” has become an obligation for those who insist on staying or who are unable to leave their villages; out of fear, the population sleeps in the bush and during the day they come out to take care of their home and belongings;
Thousands of children and young people have not been studying for a long time; when the attacks began, the teachers, who were teaching in the attacked Villages and in others not attacked, began to stay at home without risking their lives; the same happened with health workers; all this without counting the destruction (burning) of many Schools;
The authorities “fled” from the Villages; both those who had been attacked lately and those who had not yet been attacked; the situation is one of total insecurity and fear; also the members of the NGOs who until now had resisted, were evacuated by their organizations;
The Catholic missionaries who have refused to abandon their people still bravely resist; however, they begin to question themselves and to be questioned by the superiors of their religious Institutes, and by myself as the Bishop of this Diocese, because we feel on our shoulders the weight of the serious responsibility that we bear for their lives;
The Coronavirus Pandemic has already arrived in our Province, which currently has half of the country's infected people; we do not have the minimum conditions to face this pandemic; this war situation only tends to increase the risks to which the entire population of the Province is exposed, both those who are agglomerated in the villages and those who are hiding in the woods;
Pope Francis has made our situation known when, in his Blessing Urbi et Orbi, on Easter Day, he spoke specifically about the war and the humanitarian crisis’ situation in Cabo Delgado; we hope that, like him, influential people and international organizations will do their part.
In view of the above, in short, I wish to launch this cry, because I still believe that something can be done to put an end to the suffering of this humble people: for the love of God, do something for Cabo Delgado, because this suffering Province is part of Mozambique!
I am not naive, and I know that the Executive (the government), through the Army (FDS) is acting, but its action has not yet been sufficiently effective.
Why not create a supra-parts Commission, with members of the Mozambican Assembly of the Republic, the Judiciary, civil society, to assist the Government in facing this odious war? Why the United Nations (ONU), the African Union (OUA), the European Union (EU) do not offer a concrete help to tackle this problem?
I believe that God has not abandoned His people, but He expects more responsible and effective action from us. We are His instruments and we must always ask, like Saint Francis: “Lord, make me - make us - instruments of Your Peace!”
May God bless us!
Pemba, April 24, 2020
Mgr. Luiz Fernando Lisboa, cp
Bishop of Pemba (Mozambique)