Conditions in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique, have “seriously deteriorated” over the past year, affecting children “disproportionately” as nearly 3,000 people have been killed and over 800,000 displaced since the violent insurgency that began in October 2017, according to a report.

A volunteer claps as he sings with children during activities directed toward the healing for displaced children that witnessed atrocities in northern Mozambique, at a displacement settlement in Metuge on May 21, 2021. Conflict in the northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado that began in 2017 has now forced nearly some 700,000 people from their homes. Around 43 percent the 700,000 people displaced by the violence are children, according to the U.N. | JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images

Violent attacks by Islamic rebels in the Cabo Delgado province have led to the deaths of more than 2,838 people, including over 1,400 civilians, though the actual number is expected to be higher. 

report released this month by Save the Children, Plan International and World Vision showed how the extent of the conflict in Cabo Delgado has worsened in the last 12 months and how children are suffering disproportionately. 

The last 12 months of Mozambique’s Islamic insurgency has escalated due to increased armed conflict on villages and district capital towns, leading to casualties and “grave violations” against children. 

Amy Lamb, director of communications for Open Doors, told The Christian Post that the “fresh wave of violence” in Mozambique has had a “devastating” toll.

Lamb said that for the first time, Mozambique was added to the World Watch List as being among the most persecuted countries “because of the fresh wave of violence coming into Mozambique primarily driven by radical jihadist extremists.” 

A March attack on Palma, a town in the northeast of Mozambique, led to an estimated 67,848 displaced people as of June 4. 

Many children affected by this attack were orphaned or were separated from their parents as they fled. 

The southeastern African country is home to about 17 million Christians, which is over 50% of the population. Lamb said it’s also home to one of the fastest-growing evangelical populations in the world. 

“Because of [the rise in Christianity], we’re seeing jihadist groups including those who are affiliated with the Islamic state, with al Shabab, with Boko Haram, al Qaeda,” Lamb explained. 

“It’s just organizing together in order to expand their territories throughout the African continent, and their goal is really to eradicate Christianity from this territory and, unfortunately, in some ways, it’s working,” she continued. “Even specifically from this northern part of Mozambique, an estimated 800,000 people have fled the region, and those who remain, including women, children, families, are facing starvation even if they’re spared from … violence.” 

Lamb said Christians in Mozambique are especially targeted with violence and believes the government contributes to this. 

“There is a great deal of instability, and there can even be some anti-Christian antipathy at the government level,” Lamb said. “So as far as the government of Mozambique, in some ways, it’s not helping because there are some of those antipathies even at the highest level, so when it’s pervasive at the lower level, it’s combining into a perfect storm.”

The report also offers recommendations and said the U.N. and international community “must, without delay,” support the establishment of peace and address underlying causes of the conflict. 

In March, the U.S. Army Green Berets were deployed to Mozambique to train Mozambican marines to counter the violent insurgency that has led to children as young as 12 years old being beheaded. 

Lamb agrees that the situation requires the international community’s attention and said the Islamic State is struggling to gain a hold of the entire region in what she believes is “the greatest wave of Islamic violence” in the modern era. 

“It should be a matter of grave concern for the international community because it is an indication that there is an emerging caliphate throughout the sub-Saharan African region,” she said. “So what we saw in the devastation … that’s all caliphate activity.”

“And what’s so concerning is these groups are organizing together to create what’s essentially a new Islamic State throughout the entire region,” Lamb continued. “So that is deeply concerning, not just from a religious freedom standpoint, but also from a democracy standpoint. Also from just the overall human rights condition of we have this one group of incredibly violent extremists who are saying … ‘we’re going to take over.” It should be a matter of concern for the international community because this is probably the greatest wave of Islamic violence that the modern era has seen.” 

Lamb called on the American Church to pray for Christians in Mozambique and for those who have been displaced.

“Pray for God’s intervention in the violent attacks, and as rapidly as we have seen this wave of violence rise, that we would see it decline just as fast,” Lamb added.

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