Twice in the past week, gunmen have abducted students at Presbyterian secondary schools in Cameroon’s North West region, drawing further attention to the deepening conflict in the country’s Anglophone regions.
On Sunday night, November 4th, a group of armed men entered the campus of the Presbyterian Secondary School (PSS) at Nkwen, Bamenda, and abducted 78 students and three staff members, according to a statement by the Rt. Rev. Samuel Fonki, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon (PCC). Eleven students, abducted and held for ransom on October 31st, had since “regained their freedom very traumatized,” Rev. Fonki said.
“The PCC is greatly terrified and shocked by these successive attacks on this institution,” Rev. Fonki said. He noted that Church had seen a number of its personnel shot and wounded and killed recently, “particularly of the educational sector.”
As violence in Cameroon escalates the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon has called on all parties to respect life and to be mindful that words matter, that hate speech and abuse of social media has real and deadly consequences for the lives of people in Cameroon. The Church promotes dialog to include the fundamental issues that sparked this crisis and with a goal to seek justice, which is necessary for peace.
The State Department recently issued a statement urging “all parties – including the government – to respect the rule of law, resolve peacefully any disputes through established legal channels, and avoid hate speech.”
They continued, “With the conclusion of the presidential election, the United States strongly encourages both sides involved in the conflict affecting the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon to focus on resolving differences through peaceful dialogue and to allow unhindered access to humanitarian aid workers.”
Please contact Secretary of State Pompeo thanking him for the State Department’s call for peaceful dialogue and unhindered access to humanitarian aid workers. Ask him to continue to monitor the situation and support a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The PCC, with whom the PCUSA partners in God’s mission, is celebrating this month its 61st anniversary as an autonomous church with 1,500 congregations and 600 Pastors. Their evangelistic mission is strengthened by numerous inspiring choirs and the Christian Youth, Women and Men Fellowships. These pastors and members of choirs and movements are part of the civilian population being attacked by both the separatist militia and by the “security” forces of the government who are supposed to protect them.
The attacks on PSS Nkwen are just the latest of a long and deplorable list of incidents:
- seven of the PCC’s 22 health centers are non-functional because of this crisis;
- eight of the church’s thirty presbyteries are affected, with 128 parishes unable to function normally;
- church hospitals have been vandalized and nurses and doctors are afraid to work;
- only slightly more than third of the church 223 primary schools even partially opened their doors for the 2017/2018 school year;
- eight of the 22 secondary schools had to be handed over to a local congregation for management and care.
The crisis has caused immense economic hardship on the PCC as the church has had to continue to meet many expenses with dramatically reduced income from school fees. The militia has tried to prevent schools from opening. School buildings have been burned, and, in addition to the recent kidnappings, at least one teacher killed.