JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our website and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world and introducing you to various projects we have helped to bring into being together with our partners and ACN benefactors.
This week: Cameroon
A multipurpose hall for Catholics who fled Boko Haram
However, these attacks have attracted little publicity by the world media. Bishop Bruno Ateba of the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo, in the region bordering the frontier with Nigeria, laments this fact: “What happened in the attacks in Paris is something we experience here every day, yet nobody in the world is speaking about it.” Instead, all the attention of the world media is focused on the Middle East, he says. And yet, since the autumn of 2014, in his diocese alone, two senior staff of the diocese, three catechists and over 30 of the Christian faithful have been murdered. On top of this there are numerous abductions. In particular many children and young people are kidnapped to serve as “cannon fodder” for Boko Haram. Others are lured away from their families in return for money and false promises by the terrorists. In fact, in recent months around 2,000 children and young people in Cameroon, aged between five and 15 years, have fallen into the hands of Boko Haram, including a number of girls.
The violence is not only affecting the Christians, for many Muslims are also falling victim to it. In a number of places mosques have been burned to the ground, while the imams have had their throats cut for refusing to toe the line of Boko Haram. Since as early as December 2013, in fact, the local Muslim community in Cameroon has increasingly adopted a clearer stance against Boko Haram, rejecting the group’s claim to be Muslim. Instead, many Muslims have been helping Christians who are in danger, the bishop reports. “We share the same sufferings together with them,” he insists.
It is not only in Nigeria, but also in the north of neighbouring Cameroon that people are suffering from the violent attacks of the terrorist Boko Haram militias.
The attacks have caused serious damage to the infrastructure of this region which is already among the poorest in Cameroon. As a result of the terrorism, over 110 schools and 13 health centres have been closed and a number of police stations have been destroyed.
Many people have fled. In the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo alone – 55,000 people have fled the violence. Many have found shelter with friends or relatives, but over 22,000 have sought refuge out in the bush. In addition to the local refugee population there is a flood of refugees from Nigeria too, people who are also seeking to escape the terror of Boko Haram. Altogether there are thought to be more than a million people made refugees by Boko Haram, and many thousands of them have fled here to northern Cameroon.
Bishop Ateba makes this appeal to the world community: “Today we are begging your attention, your prayers and your help. Please help us to put a stop to this nameless brutality that is destroying all hope for the future and bringing to nothing the work of many generations of the faithful.” At the same time, though, he praises the courage of the ordinary faithful who continue to gather together to pray in many places, despite the danger and their fear. They are “like fireflies of faith, shining in the night,” he says.
ACN is proposing to give $20,230 for the construction of a multipurpose hall to provide 5,200 or so Catholic refugees currently sheltering in the refugee camp of Minawao with a gathering place to pray, attend Holy Mass and receive pastoral care and support.