Christians in Cameroon are caught in the crossfire of a violent civil war.
The conflict is between the French-speaking majority and the English-speaking minority, and tension came to a fever pitch after last year’s bitterly contested presidential elections.
Sadly, Christian churches and schools have been caught in the crossfire.
More than 80 hostages were kidnapped at gunpoint from a Presbyterian school by violent militias and spent a week in captivity before being released.
This was only the latest of at least four other school abductions in 2018.
In addition, at least four church buildings were taken over by military forces and at least 50 Christian-run primary schools, secondary schools, and hospitals were affected by the conflict.
Yet the Christians of Cameroon still call for peace.
“Before, during, and after the presidential elections that just ended in Cameroon, Christians, and many believers of other faiths, prayed for this country. They prayed like they never did before,” wrote Buma Kor Dickson, a Christian publisher based in Yaoundé.
“The fact is that Cameroonians on both sides prayed for change, but the answer is still to come. God is not done with Cameroon, yet!”
Violence has been carried out by both sides, but being the minority, it seems that the Anglophones are being hardest hit.
Particularly hard hit seems to be the Presbyterian-run churches, schools, and hospitals in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon.
Schools? Yes, schools have been a major target in this harassment, and while neither side is innocent in this situation, we know that children should never be used as bargaining chips. Yet, that is exactly what happened in November 2018.
Being dubbed as a “crisis”, many who have been in the middle of the conflict in Cameroon have had to flee their homes for the homes of family and friends in safer parts of the country. Some have even fled to the neighboring country of Nigeria to find some peace.
More than 400 civilians have been killed in this conflict. This includes an American missionary who had just moved to the area a few weeks before he got caught in the crossfire of the fight.
Then, in November of 2018, the kidnappings happened.
Students at a boarding school in the English-speaking region of Cameroon were violently awoken in the middle of the night. They were taken from their beds; some were slapped and beaten as they were directed to leave the school.
These children were awoken in confusion and did not know what was happening. They were dragged through the dormitories until the attackers were satisfied with the children that they had collected.
A teacher who lived by the school heard the sounds in the night, like that of gunfire. Fearing for his life, the teacher switched off the lights and went back to bed. When he awoke in the morning, he realized with horror that most of the students were no longer there.
The fear that must have been going through the minds of these children is unimaginable. The yearning that they must have felt for their families is indescribable.
A similar event happened in September of 2018, when 9 students were kidnapped from yet another boarding school. They were held for 3 days until their ransoms were paid and they were subsequently released.
All of the violence has forced most of the schools in the English-speaking regions to shut down since December 2016. Those who are still holding on were pushing through despite the threats all around them.
Now, even more have been forced to close their doors.
Violence, especially when there are children involved, is something we never want to see. But although the violence in Cameroon doesn’t show signs of stopping, there is some good news that has come out of this situation.
Through all of the violence, many Presbyterian pastors have been forced to leave in fear of their lives. The Presbyterian Church has called for condemnation of violence and for peaceful discussion to ensue in its stead.
They are using 2 Corinthians 13:11 as their cry for peace, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”
Peace is the prayer of the Church in Cameroon and the release of the students kidnapped in November has bolstered everyone’s spirits.
This is the peace that we should all be striving for in our lives. We should be trying to spread that peace to those around us.
There will always be disagreements between people, but handling these disagreements with Grace, Faith, and peace is something that we should all strive to do.
Please join us in praying for those who have trouble seeing peace in their lives, and those who fear that their lives will be snuffed out soon due to violent times.
We are all here to show the Love of Christ to others. No matter what, we must remember that we must do everything in Love.