AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE - The refugees from the Corrane refugee camp to Cardinal Tagle: we ask the Pope for prayers so that this war ends and we can return home"

Tuesday, 13 February 2024

by Antonella Prenna

Nampula (Agenzia Fides) - "Your Eminence, I would like to ask you to tell Pope Francis to pray for us, pray that this war ends and that we can return home". This is the request of a refugee from the “Corrane” reception center in the Meconta district of Nampula province, made at the invitation of Cardinal Luis Antonio Gochin Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, during a recent visit by the Cardinal.
"On Saturday, January 27, we left Nampula to reach the camp 50 km away. In our mind, 50km can be covered in an hour in our context, whereas there, because of the extremely damaged roads, full of potholes and, thank God, accessible because it didn't rain, we managed to arrive in three hours", said MariaGrazia Salmaso, head of the Missionary Office of the Diocese of Vittorio Veneto, speaking to Fides about the recent visit of Cardinal Tagle, Pro-Prefect, after presiding over the episcopal ordination of Father Osório Citora Afonso, Missionary of the Consolata (I.M.C.), as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Maputo. The Bishop of Maputo, João Carlos Hatoa Nunes, and the Bishop of Nampula, Inácio Saúre, I.M.C. were also present.
"During the visit to the refugee camp," Salmaso continued, "there was a solemn moment in which the local governor and the head of Caritas reported on the camp's progress after introducing everyone present." "Those present listened in silence, there was also a translator in Portuguese, as many only speak Makua, a dialect of the region. There were representatives from church circles present, but also many who were not. Above all, there were many women, children and also many men who accompanied us."
"When the Pro-Prefect invited those present to express their thoughts – he added – it was particularly difficult for the women because they are not used to expressing themselves publicly. They did this with a song that moved us deeply. A lot of hardship, a lot of suffering, a need for humanity was perceived. The cardinal gave them the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, who were also refugees and had to leave Nazareth, and urged them not to give up and to trust in God, who loves them and is close to them, despite the great hardships of their daily life." "In this context, Cardinal Tagle expressed the wish that someone would present his thoughts, in the spirit of sincere exchange. He asked if anyone wanted to speak. A young man from the area pointed out in a very energetic but also suffering tone the hardships they are experiencing: from the lack of access to food to the lack of seeds for cultivation, from the inability to complete an education due to the lack of infrastructure, to the isolation caused by the distance from the city center, which often remains inaccessible. The young man particularly pointed out the serious health problem. There is a small health center, but there is a lack of a refrigerator where vaccines can be stored, since there is no electricity.
The most touching moment, besides this accusation, this energy, almost anger", emphasizes Salmaso", was manifested when the cardinal asked to convey a request to be forwarded to the Holy Father. It was then that the young man expressed in his request to pray insistently so that the war would end and they could return to their homeland, the fundamental right not to migrate, so expressed in the encyclical Fratelli Tutti. A right that almost exceeds that of fundamental rights. The desire to return home, because those who are refugees cannot put down roots and have no prospects in life. There are people who have left Cape Delgrade for more than four years, let's think of young people, many are unaccompanied minors, many are disabled. And this is a very difficult situation that really touched us. Other people have also spoken out and expressed more or less the same needs, including a woman."

Camp Corrane was initially set up as a temporary camp as a result of the conflicts in the Cape Delgado region of northern Mozambique. It was in October 2017 that the military began killing, destroying public religious infrastructure, taking away property from the population, forcing people to flee. "A movement of almost one million and 30 thousand people is recorded and estimated" Salmaso added.
Some took refuge in neighboring towns, others left the area and arrived in Nampula. Of these, only around 352,000 have returned home, with the rest still on the move or in refugee camps. The camp stabilized in 2020 by welcoming people, people, of whom at least 1,500 families and more or less 5,000 individuals live with basic humanitarian needs, food and other things.

Nampula Province has seen a steady influx since then, in particular because it is close to that of Nacala, below Cape Delgrade.
"The data provided to us from a report presented during the meeting states that as of November 2023, there were 77,237 people registered at the center, of which 53% were women and 47% were men. Corrane was created by the local government, which has made efforts to create infrastructure, but equally valuable is the support of the local Caritas, which has managed to support this population thanks to humanitarian aid from various countries. They help the destitute people with growing materials and food". Some of those present told us that "no food parcels had arrived for eight months and that they are currently in a very difficult situation." Ms. Salmaso also reports that she was particularly impressed by the educational and educational activity of Caritas, which consists in creating a sense of responsibility in people so that they can participate in helping their neighbors.

"At the end of the meeting, Cardinal Tagle blessed the people and after a community lunch we returned to Nampula. The missionaries there told us that a chain of aid had also been set up between the different congregations, but it was somewhat neglected due to lack of means. Many Comboni Missionaries and others present also visit the camp from Nampula to provide spiritual support especially to women, children and those in need". (Agenzia Fides, 13/2/2024)