Maputo (Agenzia Fides) - About 30 people, mostly women and children, have managed to escape in recent days from the hands of Islamist militias that they had captured in the Cabo Delgado region in the far north of Mozambique.
Since 2017, the province has been shocked by the violence of jihadist groups who claim to have joined the so-called Islamic State (IS). So far 3,500 people have been killed and 820,000 residents have been forced to flee. The threat to regional stability posed by Islamists from Mozambique, who have invaded neighboring Tanzania, has meanwhile also prompted the Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which Mozambique is a member, and Rwanda, which have sent about 3,000 soldiers in support of the local army.
Thanks to pressure from the Mozambican military and their allies, the jihadists have now been forced to flee so the hostages could escape. They reported that they were ill-treated and that they were given little food by the kidnappers. Women and girls report that they were forced to marry the terrorists and that they were sexually abused.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the recent summit of the countries of southern Africa in Malawi that there had been "significant progress" in the fight against jihadist violence in northeastern Mozambique following the intervention of regional troops.
Christian and Muslim religious
leaders want to make a contribution to peace and reconciliation in the Mozambican province, among other things by committing themselves to work together to spread "the true meaning of religion" and to save the image of Islam that is threatened by extremism. "We declare our unity and our unanimous rejection of terrorist and extremist acts and reaffirm our commitment to stand side by side for peace and brotherhood," say the Christian and Muslim religious leaders who want to continue to work to protect the true meaning of religion, "so that society does not see it as the cause of conflicts". This is particularly true in the Islamic religion, "which is most affected by prejudice".
Religious leaders signed the statement at the end of a three-day meeting in late December in Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 12/1/2022)