Church “a medium of hope for people” amid Anglophone Crisis: Cameroonian Prelate

Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi speaking to journalists at the end of Holy Mass to mark the 70th anniversary celebration of the canonical erection of Cameroon’s Buea Diocese.
Credit: ACI Africa

The Church has been a source of hope for the people of God in Cameroon amid the protracted Anglophone crisis, a Bishop in the Central African nation has said in an interview with ACI Africa.

During the Thursday, December 10 interview, Bishop Michael Miabesue Bibi acknowledged with appreciation the continued presence of the members of the Clergy among the people despite the challenges occasioned by the four-year crisis.

“Despite the crisis, we have been moving on. The Priests have been doing a lot of work and the Church has become a medium of hope for the people,” Bishop Bibi told ACI Africa.

The Apostolic Administrator of Buea Diocese, located in the Southwestern region of Cameroon further said that people “know that all is not lost because the Priests are living in their midst and continue to evangelize them and that gives them a certain sense of assurance.”

Reflecting on how the crisis has affected those under his pastoral care, the Cameroonian Bishop said, “We actually have two Deaneries that are going through difficulties as a result of the crisis – Muyuka Deanery with seven parishes and Muea Deanery with three parishes.” 

The Anglophone regions of Cameroon, the North West and the South West, plunged into conflict in 2016 after a protest by lawyers and teachers turned violent.

An armed separatists’ movement claiming independence for the so-called republic of Ambazonia emerged following the government’s crackdown on protesters.

Since then, the violent conflict has led to the displacement of over 679,000 people. More than 600,000 children have not been able to go to school in the two regions, and at least 3,000 lives have been lost during the four-year skirmishes.

Bishop Bibi who was speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary celebration of the canonical erection of Cameroon’s Buea Diocese said despite the protracted Anglophone crisis, “all 37 Parishes in the Diocese are operational and the Priests cannot abandon the Christians.”

The Bishop who has been at the helm of the Diocese since December 2019 added that one of his first tasks in the Diocese was “to go to all these challenging areas in order to encourage the people in their faith, to tell them that God never abandons his people even during challenging and difficult moments.”

“I increased the manpower in these parishes in order to make sure that they have two priests in all the parishes,” Bishop Bibi told ACI Africa December 10.

The 49-year-old Cameroonian Bishop who also serves as the Auxiliary Bishop of Bamenda expressed his desire for an end to the Anglophone crisis. 

“Our prayer and wish has been that by the grace of God, and at his own time, this crisis should come to an end so that the Christians and the Pastors can continue to do their work without any hesitation,” said Bishop Bibi. 

Speaking about the controversy that besieged the Catholic University Institute of Buea (CUIB) in June when he made changes at the Institution’s leadership, Bishop Bibi expressed his gratitude to God because “the team that I appointed to take over the administration of the University effectively took over.”

“Everything has been moving on smoothly. We have not had any major challenges,” he said and added, “We keep on praying that the university will continue to impart the knowledge that it is supposed to, maintaining its mission and vision, which is to train servant leaders who will be able to influence not only their society but the world at large.”

In the December 10 interview with ACI Africa, the Cameroonian Bishop also reflected on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people of God in his Diocese.

“So far we have not recorded any serious case and nobody has died within our Clerical family,” Bishop Bibi said, adding, “Unfortunately, some of our Christians because of their movements lost their lives because of the pandemic.”

He continued, “We thank God because ever since the coronavirus came, I sent most of the Priests to go for COVID-19 test, some of them were positive but we thank God because Archbishop Samuel Kleda of the Douala Archdiocese graciously accepted to send medication.” 

“We had the opportunity to give out those medications free of charge to those who were tested positive,” the Apostolic Administrator of Buea said, making reference to Archbishop Kleda’s herbal medication meant for COVID-19 treatment.

COVID-19 has reportedly infected some 24,963 people in the Central African nation and while 443 have succumbed to the coronavirus, 23,344 others have recovered.

“In the Diocese of Buea, we encouraged the faithful to adhere to the preventive measures put in place by the government in order to see to it that the Priests and Christians do not contract the virus or spread it,” Bishop Bibi told ACI Africa December 10.

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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
[email protected]