By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE (BosNewsLife)– An umbrella group of church leaders in Mozambique has condemned spreading violence in the southeastern African nation, after the killing of a Catholic missionary by armed robbers.
“We publicly protest against the violence that afflicts our nation and claims innocent human lives,” wrote the Conference of Religious Institutions in Mozambique (CIRM) in a letter obtained by BosNewsLife Thursday, May 31.
The letter was distributed by the Catholic ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ group, which supports reportedly persecuted Christians in the region.
Catholic Priest Valentim Eduardo Camale of the Consolata Missionaries congregation was murdered May 3 during a robbery at his residence in the city pof Matola, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) west of the capital Maputo, missionaries said.
The 48-year-old priest was reportedly beaten while attempting to resist the robbery by four armed men. He was later found in a pool of blood by a fellow priest, but died on his way to hospital, Catholics said.
Previously, he was reportedly attacked by armed Congolese rebels during his internship in Congo.
“It is not easy to see how much a life is worth in front of the dynamics of this event, it is not easy to “read” with faith such a death,” acknowledged Priest Stefano Camerlengo, the superior general of the Consolata Missionaries.
“It is not easy to understand the death and the reason of this young missionary, is not easy to justify and forgive who has committed such a violent act,” he added.
However he said he had invited the faithful to remember the priest “with a community celebration by lighting a candle and to celebrate him in the silence of prayer…”
The attack against the missionary was part of an “exploding crime wave” in what is the world’s fourth-poorest nation, warned Francisco Lerma Martínez, bishop of the northeastern Gurúè area.
In the CIRM letter, he said religious leaders appeal “to the civil population, non-governmental organizations, the media and all persons of good will to discuss ways to break out of the spiral of violence.”
CIRM added that the rampant “organ trade and human trafficking” as well as “rape, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery…reduce citizens to hostages in their own country.”
However, “one human life is much more valuable than any large-scale project or financial investment,” the bishop and his CIRM stressed.
Christians are among those trying to survive in a nation that since independence from Portugal in 1975, has been battered by civil war, economic mismanagement and famine.
President Armando Guebuza, a millionaire businessman, oversaw a move away from Marxism and the introduction of a multi-party system. Yet, he is under pressure to tackle poverty by providing Mozambicans with revenues of tourism and mineral and energy resources that have started to draw foreign investors, especially from neighbouring South Africa.