Christians face persecution from the growing presence of Islamic militants, particularly in the northern region of Cabo Delgado, where insurgents such as the IS-affiliated Islamist group al-Sunnah wa Jama'ah, and fighters with links to Somali group al-Shabaab, are enforcing a reign of terror. People either stay in the region under daily threats of abduction, or they flee their homes and communities and fend for themselves. Many are traumatised by the violence, and those who are forced into marriage or the militia are often plagued by shame or stigma.
In other parts of the country, Christians who convert from a Muslim or African Traditional Religion background often face pressure from their families to renounce their faith. Many Muslim families living in Mozambique force suspected female converts to marry a Muslim man to keep them away from Christian activities. Married women face divorce if they convert to Christianity. In some cases, they lose custody of their children and may be denied their due inheritance.
In some areas, drug cartels persecute Christians and target church youth workers in particular. Tensions in the country are only exacerbated by government restrictions on freedom of religion, such as bans on all religious influence in public educational institutions and cumbersome registration requirements for religious groups.
The persecution of Christians is most severe in the northern Cabo Delgado Province, where Islamist extremists carry out violent attacks.
Young girls are also particularly vulnerable, as Mozambique has one of the highest rates of early marriage in the world. Children as young as seven are forced into marriage with militants.
“In no one else I trust, only in God and Jesus Christ. Because He did not leave me... He keeps me and my family, because of this we are still alive.”Lorena, a widow
In 2021, Mozambique entered the World Watch List top 50, and persecution has continued to worsen. This year, Mozambique has risen nine places on the World Watch List, reflecting the mounting pressure on Christians, particularly in the northern part of the country where jihadists operate.
Even though Islamic militants have lost control of many towns and cities in the past year, due to the operation by Rwandan and Southern African forces, their influence remains very high. Radical Islamic attacks have claimed the lives of many Christians. The IS-affiliated Islamist group al-Sunnah wa Jama'ah wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in Mozambique and has committed numerous atrocities. It has burned down churches and schools and tens of thousands of people have fled from the northern part of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people are now living in camps for internally displaced people. Furthermore, the presence of drug cartels in some areas is making the lives of Christians difficult – especially for churches that want to work with youth.
Violence in the north has become more widespread and brutal, with Christians being particularly targeted. The northern province of Cabo Delgado is now in the grips of Islamist insurgents who have killed between 2,500 and 3,300 people in the area. Around 800,000 people have been displaced in an attempt to escape the violence.
The attacks by the jihadists have already spilled across the border into Tanzania and are likely to expand south and also into neighbouring Malawi.
Open Doors partners support persecuted Christians in Mozambique through emergency aid, persecution survival and cross-cultural awareness training, and economic empowerment projects.
Heavenly Father, cast Your protection around those affected by persecution in Mozambique. Provide for the thousands of displaced people and give them shelter, food and water. Please look after those children who have been abducted into forced marriages, and militant groups. Let them know Your love for them and intervene to give them freedom. Stifle the plans of Islamic extremists and work in their hearts to turn them away from hatred and violence, and towards your love. Give our brothers and sisters in Mozambique a land in which they are safe. Amen.