By Lisa Zengarini
Religious leaders in Cabo Delgado have pledged to promote dialogue and mutual understating as a means to improve inter-religious relations and to bring peace in the Mozambican province.
The commitment, inspired by the Abu Dhabi Document on Human Fraternity, was the outcome of a recent inter-religious seminar held in the city of Pemba. Discussions were focused on the theme: “Religion is part of the solution to the Cabo Delgado conflict”.
A four-year conflict
The northern province has been been riven by an armed conflict for over four years.
Violence erupted in late 2017, when local Muslim militias, who have declared their allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, launched an insurgence. Jihadi fighters have attacked villages, churches, killed civilians and soldiers to take over strategic infrastructures and extractive mines.
Over 800.000 people have been displaced by the conflict.
In their final joint statement, the religious leaders of Cabo Delgado reiterate their firm rejection of violence and the exploitation of religion to justify terrorism.
The statement highlights that the conflict has caused a full-scale humanitarian crisis and is hindering the development of the province, one of the poorest in Mozambique, despite being rich in gas and other natural resources.
It further calls attention to the local “social inequalities”, “the high rate of illiteracy”, the “crisis of ethical-moral values”, and the “ethnic and religious polarization” currently threatening peaceful coexistence in Mozambique and undermining human dignity.
Religion does not teach violence
The religious leaders stress it is not religion, notably Islam, that causes conflict. On the contrary, “religion aims to create happiness, reconciliation and peace in society,” they write.
They therefore commit to ovecome mutual misunderstandings and prejudices through dialogue, affirming that “all religions are part of the plan of God”, and “no true religious leader or prophet has ever taught violence.”
Concern for young people
The religious leaders espress their particular concern for young people who are more exposed to religious radicalization, stressing the need to accompany them so they don’t get trapped in extremism.
Finally, they pledge “to pray together for lasting peace” in Cabo Delgado and to cooperate to this end with the Mozambican government and all institutions and organizations that are committed to peace in the province.