Cameroon: Impact of the socio-political crises on the pastoral life of the diocese of Buea

Cameroon: Impact of the socio-political crises on the pastoral life of the diocese of Buea

200 civilians killed, 20,000 IDPs, 70 communities raided and 40 schools closed

The Diocese of Buea has been seriously affected by the worsening socio-political crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, both Anglophone regions of the country.  This is the conclusion reached by the international foundation Aid to the Church in Need after consulting sources close to the local Church in the area.

According to the information received by, there are more than 20,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within the Diocese. Since the crisis began to escalate in November 2016 over eight localities or communities have been burned down, 70 raided and 25 abandoned forcing the inhabitants to seek refuge in farms and bushes. Based on statistics and estimates of local and international Human Rights organizations, more than 200 civilians (not only Catholics) have been killed, including children and women, within the Diocese.

This sociopolitical crisis has resulted in severe consequences for the pastoral life of the Church as well, which has been seriously disrupted. About 10 parishes and mission stations, especially within the Muyuka and Muea Deaneries, were forced to suspend their pastoral work. Some other parishes have been attacked during fighting between government security forces and pro-independence fighters, such as Bolifamba (Mile 16) on 24 December 2018 or Muyuka, Ekona and Muea on 25 March  2019.

The lives of priests have also been threatened. The brutal killing of Rev. Father Alexander Sob of Bomaka Parish on 20 July  2018 in Muyuka remains a true reminder of the risk faced by the clergy in the present context, states the ACN’s sources.

Map of Cameroon's Anglophone Crisis from 2018.

Map of Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis from 2018.

Not only the pastoral work but also the educational activities promoted by the diocese are suffering the consequences of the crisis. 40 Catholic primary schools have been closed since 2016. Others have been attacked and vandalized, like Our Lady of Grace College in Muyuka and Our Lady Mount Carmel College in Muea, on 22 September 2017. This was followed by an attack by armed civilians on the iconic St. Joseph’s College Sasse in Buea. About 20 people, including students and teachers, were injured in the attack, which forced the temporary closure of Catholic colleges in the diocese.

On the other hand diocesan medical centers such as Mt. Mary Hospital Buea and Regina Pacis Hospital Muntengene have witnessed a drastic fall in the number of patients. This has been largely due to the mass exodus of people to other areas. ACN’s information reports that situations have been observed in which state security forces have entered Catholic medical centers with firearms in search of suspected pro- independence fighters undergoing treatment. There have been cases of women giving birth with no medical attention.

In addition, sources predict severe food shortages and rising prices due to the fact that farmers are forced to leave their villages and farmland. Threats to food security, malnutrition and other health-related problems will be inevitable in the near future.

The current crisis began to escalate in the Diocese in October 2016 when Cameroon’s security/defense forces used live ammunition during protests by the population of the Anglophone regions in the southwest and northwest of the country, who felt marginalized by the majority French-speaking authorities. They accuse them of imposing the French language and traditions on them and demand greater autonomy and respect for their customs.

According to ACN, in the face of all these challenges, the clergy and the faithful continue to show perseverance and great faith in observing their pastoral commitments. The massive participation during big celebrations, such as Chrism Mass 2019 at the Cathedral in Small Soppo in Buea, is a clear testament to this.

Aid to the Church in Need has supported in the Diocese of Buea more than 20 projects in the last 25 years. In 2019 most of ACN’s help was dedicated to female religious congregations affected by the crisis.

 

 

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Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 5000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.