As Mozambique continues the “war on terror” that it has been fighting since 2017 against Islamic militants belonging to the ISIS-affiliated group al-Shabaab, women and children are often caught in the crossfire. The conflict, while complicated, seems to stem from both rising extremism and violence from al-Shabaab, and also insurgency from those concerned about corruption in the country. As a result, the conflict has spread across the entire nation, harming hundreds of thousands of citizens in the process, the most vulnerable of which are women and children. While Mozambique is technically a majority-Christian country, the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where much of the conflict takes place, is a mostly Muslim region. Christianity Today reported that, in this region alone, around 300 Christians have been killed for their faith and there have been over 100 attacks on churches in the area.
David Curry, a spokesman for Open Doors USA, reported on the conflict, saying, “There are attacks happening all around. ISIS is trying to get a foothold in this northern part of Mozambique. It’s complicated, of course, with all the different political stuff, but the gist of it is that Christians are really in the danger zone because the Islamic State group there has an ideology which justifies these attacks.” Johan Viljoen, the director of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, also reported on the situation in Mozambique, describing the trauma experienced by women and children who are caught in the conflict. Very often, women and children in Mozambique, especially in war-torn Cabo Delgado, face sexual exploitation as the security situation across country remains volatile. Viljoen says, “Since 2020 we have been receiving reports of women and children from whom sex was demanded in exchange for food rations.
There have also been numerous reports of children being recruited by insurgents to fight. These reports have been regularly contained in reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.” Christianity Today added further evidence to this, stating that the al-Shabaab insurgency targets children, often pushing boys from a young age to become child soldiers and young girls to become child brides, adding that al-Shabaab kills those “who do not comply.” According to the director of Catholic news site Aciafrica, over 50,000 people have been displaced, with 35,000 of them under the age of 18. Many of the children are recruited into being child soldiers and child prostitutes. Viljoen responded to this report, stating that the children “will have extensive emotional and mental damage and there are almost no mental health facilities in Cabo Delgado.”
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