Mozambique is a secular state with a robust constitution that guarantees freedom of worship, and relations between Christians and Muslims was largely peaceful until the arrival of the ISIS affiliated Islamist group, al-Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASJ), also known as ISIS-Mozambique (IS0M) in 2017. Confusingly, they are also called al Shabaab, although there is no connection with Somali organization of the same name. They lost no time in mounting vicious attacks on persecuted Christians (as well as Muslims) particularly in the Northeast corner of the country, Cabo Delgado province. The violence has been atrocious, with entire villages razed, people beheaded, women raped. The death toll is currently at over 3000 dead with a million displaced.
In 2021 the international community responded, and peacekeeping troops were sent in, but violence remains. Economics is a factor also with development of vast offshore gas reserves delayed by the fighting, and the insurgents wishing to split off the province to gain the income for themselves. The Islamist insurgents are not the only source of persecution however, but pressure comes from the normal community. In the northern areas particularly Christian girls are vulnerable to being kidnapped and forced to marry a Muslim man.
According to some reports, this affects 20 percent of girls aged 13-17. The church is on the firing line in this country with its unique ability to distribute aid fairly and effectively, but this makes it a continual target, and this will not change any time soon.
President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi
“Every time I close my eyes, I see the rapes of my mother and sisters. My father is dead. I just pray for the ability to have a sweet dream. Lord, please send me a good dream.”
FIFTEEN-YEAR OLD CHRISTIAN BOY IN REFUGEE CAMP
History of Christianity
It was the Portuguese in search of trade that brought Christianity to Mozambique in the 17th century when missionary priests followed in the wake of slave traders. The colonial rulers kept out other Christian missionaries from other churches, but today around over half the population are Christians.
The largest Christian groups are Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians (33% of the population), with Roman Catholics at 27%. Muslims constitute around 20% of the population but until recently relations between the two communities were largely peaceful.
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