Sister Maria De Coppi, an Italian nun for sixty years in Mozambique, was shot dead during the attack on her mission while trying to protect some students.
An Italian nun was killed in an attack on a Catholic mission in northeastern Mozambique that has been plagued by jihadist violence for nearly five years, her congregation said Wednesday. Sister Maria De Coppi was killed by “terroriststhat on Tuesday evening they attacked the mission of Chipene, in the diocese of Nacala, a port city in a north-eastern province, the Comboni Missionary Sisters said in a statement taken up by the AFP.
Church, hospital, primary and secondary school: the main structures of this mission located in a forest area and dedicated to education were destroyed by the attackers, reports Fides. Sister Maria De Coppi, 84, was shot in the head as she headed to the dormitory where some students had been staying. Even a traditional leader has lost his life.
The attackers “it destroyed and burned the church, the nuns’ lodgings, the hospital and the mission carsthe religious leaders added. Two other sisters, one Italian and one Spanish,he managed to escape and hide in the forestwith a group of girls.
Catholics increasingly targeted by jihadists
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Wednesday, stating in a statement that its fighterskilled four Christians, including an Italian nunin northern Mozambique. Jihadists operating in the region recently made raids further south as a regional military mission takes place in Cabo Delgado. In recent months, several sporadic attacks have occurred, affecting several neighboring provinces of Cabo Delgado.
According to the Italian press, Sister Maria De Coppi, in her eighties, had worked in Mozambique since the 1960s. The mission housed people who fled their homes due to jihadist attacks in that country.
The attack on the Chipene mission is not the first carried out by these armed extremists against Catholic churches in Mozambique. In April and then in October 2020, the mission of Nangololo was completely destroyed, the second oldest mission in the diocese of Pemba (district of Muidumbe, province of Cabo Delgado).
Reacting with emotion to the news of her assassination, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, invited to pray for the nun “Who for sixty years served Mozambique, which had become his home. May his sacrifice be a seed of peace and reconciliation in a country which, after years of stability, is again in the grip of violence, caused by Islamist groups which, for some years now, have sowed terror and death in many vast territories in the north of the country. “, reports Vatican News.
The mission of São Pedro de Lurio de Chipene was founded in 1963 by Sister Maria herself. The nun, born in 1939 and originally from Santa Lucia di Piave (diocese of Vittorio Veneto, in northern Italy), had arrived on Mozambican soil after a long journey by boat. The two priests in charge of the mission, who locked themselves in a room during the attack after finally escaping the flames and gunfire, have come out safe and sound, and are safe. The other nuns, religious and lay people of the mission, who also survived, took the direction of Nacala, the second city in the province of Nampula.
Since January 1, 2022, 13 priests and 2 nuns have been killed (1 in Asia, 8 in Africa and 6 in Asia), according to a count by the editorial staff of the seismography .
4,000 dead since 2017 in Mozambique
Violence in Mozambique has killed nearly 4,000 people since October 2017, according to the NGO Acled, which collects data in conflict zones, and has caused 820,000 people to flee. The Nampula region, where the mission is located, had so far been spared from jihadist attacks, which mainly targeted the nearby natural gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado. “This is an area that was previously considered relatively safePiers Pigou told AFP, a consultant for southern Africa at the Crisis Group think tank.
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi said on Wednesday that the jihadists split into several small cells of up to 15 militants to avoid detection. “In recent days they have moved to the province of NampulaFilipe Nyusi told an event held in the southern city of Xai-Xai and streamed online.
Since August 27, six people have been beheaded, three kidnapped and dozens of houses burned in attacks in Nampula and other cities, the head of state added.