Following seizure and control of the port city of Mocimboa da Praia recently by militants linked to the Islamic state, Pope Francis has.made an unexpected phone call to a bishop in the northern province last week.
“Writing on Catholic diocese website, Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa said,“Today … to my surprise and joy I received a call from His Holiness Pope Francis who comforted me greatly. He said that he … is following events in our province with great concern and that he has been praying for us. He also said to me that if there was anything else that he could do, we should not hesitate to ask him,”
Pope Francis called the bishop on August 19 after the Islamic State declared that it had taken two military bases near Cabo Delgado’s port city Mocimboa da Praia.
Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa leads the Mozambique diocese of Pemba, located in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where a series of violence have been recorded with multiple churches burnt, people beheaded, young girls kidnapped, and more than 200,000 people displaced.
“I told him about the difficult situation in Mocimboa da Praia, which has been taken by insurgents, and that there has been no contact with the diocese for a week from two religious sisters from the Congregation of St. Joseph of Chambéry who were working there,” Lisboa said.
Sometime this year, insurgents perpetrated attacks on seven towns and villages in Cabo Delgado province, burning down a church on Good Friday, and killing 52 young people who refused to join the terrorist group.
The bishop said that the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus mission in Nangolo was not spared during the attacks around the same period. It is further reported that in June this year the insurgents beheaded 15 people in a week.
Saddened by the developments, Pope Francis has offered to pray for peace in the province.
Mozambique’s defence minister said in a press conference on Mocimboa da Praia Aug. 13 that the Islamist militants had “attacked the town from the inside out, causing destruction, looting, and murder of defenceless citizens”.
Government troops have made efforts to regain control of captured port, which is also the logistics point for a multibillion-dollar natural gas project.
Bishop Lisboa said that Pope Francis encouraged him to contact Cardinal Michael Czerny, the under-secretary of the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, for help with humanitarian assistance.
Islamic state has claimed several attacks on Mozambique while others are said to have been perpetrated by local and homegrown Ahlu Sunna Wal extremist militant group, which has been kidnapping men and women.
Liberty Pazvakawambwa SADCNews correspondent