AFRICA/CAMEROON - The Pastor who seeks peace and reconciliation in the midst of conflict

Saturday, 25 June 2022 wars   peace   reconciliation  

Bamenda (Agenzia Fides) - "It is not easy to be Archbishop of Bamenda in this time of conflict. People look at the Church with great expectations, but the crisis we have been experiencing since the clashes between the army and the armed independence fighters began (last quarter 2017, ed) is very heavy, especially in my archdiocese, which is in the exact center of the conflict. Both factions look to the archbishop with respect and for guidance, but it is not easy: we are with the people who suffer and we take a stand against the massacres, violence, kidnappings from whichever side they come from; that is why we are often accused of siding with one force or another. Thus, the search for a solution is complicated". At this very difficult time for the populations of the English-speaking regions of Cameroon and Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Bamenda, the capital, declares in an interview to Agenzia Fides all the responsibility of being a shepherd of peace and reconciliation in a land plunged into a crisis of dramatic contours. "We have been in open conflict here for five years - he remarks - and we have reached a huge number of displaced people (800,000 according to the most recent estimates, ed.) But we are also scared by the number of dead, wounded, kidnapped. In the last period there have been some positive signs: many more children can go to school and at least 60% of institutes are now functional (the separatists have imposed the total closure of public schools in protest against Yaoundé, in some areas schools have been closed since the beginning of the crisis, ed), work, in its various forms, has resumed in most of the area and some of the displaced are slowly returning. But, unfortunately, along with these encouraging data, we must register some very negative ones. First of all, the violence is increasing, the separatists have more weapons and are carrying out more attacks against the military. They have new strategies, such as making their own bombs to bring their war actions closer to the barracks. The army responds harshly and the people here live in a state of permanent insecurity. Kidnappings and torture are on the rise and life has become impossible. People can't take it anymore, they want to live in peace and lead a normal life, but there is still too much fear. The population is caught between two opposing forces that claim to be there to protect them, but they are suffering at the hands of both. There is great suffering and our attention can only be focused on the population". (...) (Agenzia Fides, 25/6/2022)