The Cathedral of St. Paul in Pemba, Mozambique. Credit: Rosins/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Two religious sisters missing after jihadists attacked a port town in Mozambique have been found safe and well, a Catholic bishop said on Sunday.
“It is with great joy that we inform you that the two sisters, Inés and Eliane, who work in the Mocímboa da Praia parish and have been missing for 24 days, are safe and healthy with us again,” Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Pemba said 6 September.
Sister Inés Ramos and Sister Eliane da Costa, members of the congregation of St. Joseph of Chambéry, had not been heard from since the rebels attacked their town in early August.
The Islamic State declared that it had seized two military bases near the port town of Mocímboa da Praia, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, after a series of coordinated attacks 5-11 August.
Asked by Aid to the Church in Need about the whereabouts of 60 other people who went missing, Lisboa said: “Some of them were able to flee and leave Mocímboa da Praia. Others are still there.”
He called for prayers for those who were still missing.
The Diocese of Pemba is located in a region that has experienced escalating extremist violence, with multiple churches burnt, people beheaded, young girls kidnapped, and more than 200,000 people displaced by violence.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in attacks in northern Mozambique since 2017, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Some of these attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State, while others have been carried out by the homegrown Ahlu Sunna Wal extremist militant group, which has been kidnapping men and women.
Lisboa told Pope Francis in a phone call on 21 August of his concern that he had not heard from the two religious sisters following the attack. He said that the pope was saddened by the news and promised to pray for them.
Aid to the Church in Need said that Lisboa noted that the pope had visited Mozambique a year ago, on 4-6 September 2019 2019.
“We reaffirm his message of hope, peace and reconciliation,” the bishop said.