Mozambique: Traumatised and despairing

The Annunciation and Mary’s fiat marked the beginning of salvation. But for Saint Joseph her pregnancy seemed a disaster at first. Then God revealed his plans to him in a dream. Joseph obeyed and thus played a “central role in the history of salvation”, as Pope Francis writes in his letter Patris Corde proclaiming the Year of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph reminds us that “those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

A refuge from despair: refugee camp in Pemba.
A refuge from despair: refugee camp in Pemba.

Like Saint Joseph, the Sisters of the Annunciation in the diocese of Pemba, Mozambique, are seemingly hidden and in the shadows. Yet they are among the first to heal the wounds of the soul, and treat the traumas that they and the clergy repeatedly encounter in their pastoral work among the people – many of whom only just managed to escape with their lives after their towns and villages were attacked by extremists. The loss of loved ones killed by Islamist terrorism, possessions lost through displacement or natural disasters, and the destruction of their lives and dreams have inflicted the spiritual wounds that the Sisters tend to.

How does one help victims without homes and without hope? 600,000 people have been displaced – over 20% of the total population of Cabo Delgado province in the far north of Mozambique. Many of them are no more than 20 years of age. How does one address the loss of their homes, or the loss of the life they knew? How can you rescue them from utter despair and the danger of falling back into former superstitions?

Let the little children come to me… With the Sisters the little ones find peace and security
Let the little children come to me… With the Sisters the little ones find peace and security

Sister Aparecida and Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa know all too well that these refugees need spiritual and psychological counselling. But this requires skills which the Sisters, priests and lay pastoral workers must first learn themselves. And so they are being introduced, in intensive four-day courses, to the basics of psychological and social counselling, learning how to comfort the traumatised and give new hope to wounded souls. The pandemic is forcing them to learn in smaller groups. And so – in six groups of 50 at a time – these priests, religious and laity are being trained in this new form of pastoral outreach. Itis an outreach designed to guide people back to some kind of everyday normality, thereby overcoming their trauma. We have promised €18,500 towards the cost of these courses (mostly for travel, board and lodging, teaching and study materials). They will help to mend broken hearts and heal the wounds of so many souls.

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