‘Stop Killing,’ Pope Urges Mozambicans : Pontiff Calls for Peace and Justice in War-Torn African Nation
Wind swept the words away Sunday in a slum called Bairro, but poor people transfixed by an imposing man on a stubby platform understood perfectly what they could not hear.
On the last and most emotional day of Pope John Paul II’s 10-day swing through southern Africa, the medium was the message.
In an iron-man performance, the Pope delivered eight public addresses in Portuguese at as many events here Sunday in the Mozambican capital.
“Stop killing!” John Paul commanded. He called for peace, for justice and for understanding, but he need hardly have spoken at all.
Sense of Change
John Paul’s white-robed presence in a country ravaged by war and hunger--the fact that he would come at all--was symbol enough to emphasize a sense of changing tide in one of the world’s most hapless nations.
“Things are slowly getting better,” said up-country Bishop Luis Ferreira da Silva as he watched the Pope address a colorful, jostling crowd at Bairro on the dusty outskirts of the capital.
Like too many of its counterparts throughout the country, the slum is chockablock with some of the estimated 1.5 million internal refugees from a decade-old war between the Marxist Mozambican government and right-wing guerrillas.
“We believe the Pope’s presence will firmly aid the cause of peace in this region,” said Jose Luis Cabazo, a leader of the Marxist Frelimo movement, which has governed Mozambique since its independence from Portugal in 1975.
In a country of 14.9 million that is twice the size of California in area, Frelimo controls the cities, and Renamo guerrillas, long supported by South Africa, control much of the countryside. By one conservative estimate, 100,000 persons have died in the war.
Famine Is Common
Famine is a fact of life in a country where barely 10% of the people were literate at the time of independence.
Addressing a crowd of several thousand whose per capita income falls below $150 per year, John Paul noted that few families in Mozambique have escaped the tragedies of war.
“I think of those families who cry because of tomorrow’s uncertainties; because of illness, hunger and war. My heart weeps with them,” said the Pope into a microphone overwhelmed by a stiff afternoon breeze. “I think of families which are dislocated and divided. I pray that God might succor them.”
The 68-year-old Pope had seemed tired about midway through a trip that began Sept. 10 in Zimbabwe and then swung rapidly but without much fire through Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. Two exhausting days of appearances before large and lively crowds in Mozambique, by contrast, appear to have rejuvenated the Pope.
Addresses 10 Bishops
Speaking Portuguese strongly and emphatically, John Paul at nightfall Sunday addressed Mozambique’s 10 bishops on the consuming issues of peace and war.
Vigorously supporting their call for dialogue between the government and guerrillas to end the bloodshed, John Paul appealed to Mozambicans to “cure the open wounds” to enable their country to get on with the urgent task of development.
“Arms are not the way to true and enduring peace. War breeds war and peace born of war will always be a forced peace, precarious and illusory.
“Abandon the ways of violence and of vengeance; return to the ways of justice, of dignity, of law and of reason. Stop killing!” the Pope demanded.
Commerce Is Reviving
The two-year-old government of President Joaquim Chissano is proving Marxist more in its rhetoric than its policies, particularly in the economic field. A year ago, the cupboards were bare in Maputo shops. Today, commerce is returning to life, and, in addition to emergency food relief, First World donors are also giving substantial developmental aid. Last year, the United States sent $85 million.
The aid is paying off. The director of one refugee camp in the Mozambican north told reporters traveling with the Pope that deaths of refugee children from malnutrition and dysentery, running at several a day six months ago, have now stopped entirely.
The pragmatic Chissano has made peace with the church, returning property seized in revolutionary zeal soon after independence.
Officially regarding the guerrillas as “bandits,” the Chissano government is piqued at the Mozambican bishops, however, over their call for dialogue with Renamo.
John Paul showed no qualms about supporting the Mozambican church’s stand, however, calling repeatedly Sunday for “reconciliation and dialogue.”
No Mention of S. Africa
Without mentioning South Africa by name, the Pope also appealed to the “international community” to avoid “fomenting discord” in Mozambique.
Chissano met a week ago with South African Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha, and their agreement to expand economic ties has helped fuel a burst of optimism, which was reinforced by the papal visit.
John Paul returns to Rome today to end his 39th trip abroad in a 10-year reign, leaving at least some people in a have-not country feeling better about life than when he arrived.
Jousef Costa, a businessman in the central port city of Beira which John Paul barnstormed Saturday, is one of them.
“In 1983 I lost a fishing business with 90 workers in a four-hour attack by bandits who burned everything. In 1986, I couldn’t keep my restaurant open because there was no food,” he recalled. “Today, things are much better. We’ve had electricity almost without interruption for nearly two months! Imagine! And now the Pope. I’m an optimist again.”