, 28 October, 2020 / 10:27 PM
Members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Africa have termed the shooting of children at a school in Cameroon, which left scores dead and many others injured as “a heinous and despicable act” and called on authorities in the Central African country to act fast in order to end the violence that continues to rock the country.
In a statement sent to ACI Africa, the leadership of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) says that the Saturday, October 24 attack on innocent children at Mother Francisca Nursery and Primary School of Cameroon’s Diocese of Kumba in the Southwest Region of the country was shocking.
“We, the Jesuits of Africa, join several other organizations and other concerned people in Cameroon and throughout Africa in condemning in the strongest possible terms last Saturday’s killing and wounding of innocent children,” Jesuits in Africa say in the Wednesday, October 28 letter signed by JCAM President, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator.
They add, “We are shocked and outraged by the killing of innocent school children. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the children and offer our prayers and moral support to the wounded and their families and to the entire community of Kumba.”
Gunmen attacked the privately-owned school on Saturday, October 24 and opened fire on students in a classroom. According to a media report, six children died on the spot while one other succumbed to the gunshot injuries in the aftermath of the shooting.
In their message, the Jesuits in Africa express their solidarity with victims of the attack in their time of sorrow and grief and are grateful to all those providing medical care to the wounded.
In the October 28 statement delivered on behalf of the Jesuit Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar, Fr. Orobator goes on to demand an end to violence in the Central African country and calls for the protection of innocent children.
“This heinous and despicable act shows no regard for innocent lives, which represent the hope for Cameroon and Africa,” the Nigerian-born Jesuit says in the letter shared with ACI Africa.
He adds, “We demand that this violence stops now and that children should be allowed to live in safety without any fear of violence.”
“We further demand that the perpetrators of the attack be brought to justice,” the Kenyan-based Cleric says on behalf of Jesuits in Africa.
Following the Saturday attack, the Local Ordinary of Cameroon’s Kumba Diocese announced that Holy Mass will be celebrated on Friday, October 30 “for the repose of the souls of our dear and innocent students who were murdered.”
In his statement dated October 24, Bishop Agapitus Nfon said that 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.”
“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 said.
The Prelate’s announcement was followed, on Monday, October 26, by a statement from the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in which Church leaders on the continent expressed sadness at the killing of the children who reportedly were aged between 12 and 14.
“The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has learnt with great sadness of the horrific massacre of schoolchildren by yet to be identified gunmen while in a classroom in Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba,” Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki, AACC General Secretary has said on behalf of church leaders in Africa.
Rev. Mwombeki has added, “AACC condemns this dastardly act in the strongest terms possible.”
He notes that the involvement of children as targets in the ongoing civil conflict in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon is “a dangerous escalation of this war.”
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.
In his message on behalf of AACC, Rev. Mwombeki warns that the October 24 killing of innocent children could potentially lead to harming of innocents “who have no idea what the conflict is about, and who deserve to be protected by all sides to the conflict.”
“For how long will the blood of innocents be spilled in Africa due to political differences?” the AACC official laments, and asserts, “Africa must say enough is enough, and learn to disagree and negotiate political disagreements without resorting to violence and bloodshed.”
Rev. Mwombeki further says, “We are all children of one God, and all life is sacrosanct. Nobody should take away a life that he or she did not give.”
He calls on warrying groups in Cameroon to give an unequivocal pledge that there will be no targeting of civilians by their combatants.
He further appealed to the leadership of the Central African nation to investigate the heinous act, to apprehend the perpetrators, and prosecute them accordingly.
“The current finger-pointing and blame game must stop forthwith, and the truth established,” the church leader says in the October 26 statement obtained by ACI Africa.
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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