, 26 October, 2020 / 10:10 PM
Following the attack on a school within Cameroon’s Catholic Diocese of Kumba over the weekend that left at least seven children dead and dozens injured, the Local Ordinary has planned for the celebration of Holy Mass at the Cathedral on Friday, October 30.
During the Eucharistic celebration, Bishop Agapitus Nfon says in his October 24 statement, prayers will be offered “for the repose of the souls of our dear and innocent students who were murdered.”
The Holy Mass will also be offered to seek “God's consolation on their parents and families and guardians, and for all our traumatized pupils and students,” Bishop Nfon says in the statement he shared with ACI Africa.
Gunmen attacked Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy on Saturday, October 24 and opened fire on students in a classroom. According to a media report, six children died on the spot while the seventh succumbed to the gunshot injuries on Sunday, October 25.
“As your spiritual father, I invite you all especially school children and students and parents and guardians to join me in the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Fiango Kumba on Friday 30 October, 2020, at 3.00 p.m.,” the Local Ordinary of Cameroon’s Kumba Diocese says.
He also invites the people of God under his pastoral care to seek divine intervention for the attackers during the October 30 Eucharistic celebration.
“We shall also pray for the forgiveness and conversion of the Herod(s), the perpetrators of this heinous and barbarous act, while asking our Loving Father in Heaven to intervene for a lasting solution to be found so that true justice and peace may reign,” Bishop Nfon says.
In the aftermath of the October 24 attack, the 56-year-old Cameroonian Prelate says, “Our only true hope is God! Let us turn to Him in our desperation and prayerfully cry to Him to come to our assistance.”
“Let us pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit He may turn the wicked and stone hearts of the Herod(s) (the murderers of our children) into hearts of love and flesh,” the Bishop further says in his October 24 statement shared with ACI Africa.
Two English speaking regions of Cameroon, North west and South west, have been experiencing violence since 2016 after Francophone teachers and judges were sent to work in the historically marginalized Anglophone region.
Schools in the Anglophone regions of the Central African nation have been closed due to the skirmishes.
In September, separatist leaders in the country called for the resumption of schools in the warring regions. The government announced the reopening of learning institutions for October 5.
Making reference to the resumption of schools, Bishop Nfon poses in his October 24 message, “Were they not allowed to go to school by those who previously restricted them for the past four years? How could they then ask children to go to school and turn around to massacre them?”
“Who then could have done such a gruesome act? We are mourning and pondering in our painful hearts, is enough not enough?” the Cameroonian Bishop probes further.
He also makes reference to the February attack in Ngarbuh village within the north western Diocese of Kumbo during which 22 people including children and pregnant women were killed.
“Was Ngarbuh not enough? How much of the blood of our children needs to be shed before something concrete and immediate is done? Will all our children die before something is done?” the continues to pose.
He goes on to bemoan, “Kumba (South western region) is reliving that prophecy not long after the heinous massacre of innocent children and pregnant women in Ngarbuh in the Diocese of Kumbo.”
Addressing himself to the government and the international community, Bishop Nfon poses, “What is holding back those concerned, I mean the International Bodies and the Government of Cameroon to look for a lasting solution to this problem that will restore justice and peace?”
“How long will the powers that be and are capable of restoring peace and tranquility in the distressed North West and South West Regions sit and wait? How long will the authorities concerned watch and see?” he continues to probe.
The Bishop adds moanfully, “We are painfully weeping and pondering; what is so important other than peace that will make us sit back in indifference and watch tender and precious lives being wasted away?”
Following the attack, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (NECC) have, in a collective statement, said that they “vehemently” condemn the killing “school children in Kumba.”
NECC members say that they cannot understand “such a dramatic end for innocent young adolescents whose aim in life was simply to grow up and to study in order to be useful to our country.”
Expressing their solidarity with the people of God in Kumba in the October 25 collective message signed by NECC President, Bishop Abraham Kome, the Bishops in Cameroon invite “all pastors to organize in their dioceses, on 30 October, 2020, a Requiem Mass for our murdered children and to pray for the consolation of the wounded and the tried families.”
As a way forward, Cameroon’s government has promised investigations into the murders and also announced that an inter-ministerial delegation will be sent to Kumba to comfort the victims, the bereaved, and their respective families.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa