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Catholic Charity Boosts Psychosocial Training for Traumatized Sisters in Cameroon

A section of members of the Congregation of St. Anne in Cameroon's Catholic Archdiocese of Bamenda. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need International

Catholic pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has announced plans to support the psychosocial training of Sisters in Cameroon’s Bamenda Archdiocese who the foundation notes have been traumatized by the ongoing violence in the Anglophone region of the Central African country.

In a Wednesday, September 8 report, ACN notes that more than 40 Sisters and novices at the community of St. Anne, which is located at the heart of the conflict, have witnessed the violence and are currently living with fear, hence the need for psychosocial support.

The organization reports, in reference to the Sisters, “Their formation house is close to the city of Bamenda, which is just one mile (1.6 km) from the area where the fighting is raging.”

The report adds, “The three Postulants, five Novices and 37 young Sisters with temporary vows, who are currently undergoing training in the house, have been traumatized by the violence they have witnessed at first hand and by the permanent climate of fear.”

To help the Sisters cope, the Congregation has proposed to offer them a two-week workshop in which they will learn how to deal with these experiences and cope with the situation without coming to any great harm as a result.

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“The objective is to inspire new confidence in them and help them to overcome the lingering sense of fear,” ACN says.

“There is a prevailing atmosphere of fear”, says Sister Pamela Bongben, who runs the formation house.

The 2016 protest marches in the English-speaking region against a perceived marginalization in the predominantly French-speaking country evolved into the present-day crisis that is in its fifth year.

Since then, these protests have escalated into a major and ongoing armed conflict between the central government and the separatists in the Southwest and Northwestern Anglophone regions of Cameroon.

Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee as a result of the conflict in which the Catholic Clergy and other Church personnel and teachers have also reportedly been targeted.

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ACN explains that the Sisters of St. Anne are a Congregation founded in Italy in the nineteenth century, above all to educate and support poor and disadvantaged children and young people.

Explaining their 9,500 Euro donation towards the support of the two-week program, ACN says that the idea is that the Sisters will not only personally benefit from the support, but will also learn how to help and support other people who have faced similar traumatic experiences.

“In a region like this, where most people have had to confront violence, fear and death, this is an important part of their pastoral work. But inevitably the course will cost money, course materials will have to be purchased, competent lecturers paid for their time and travel expenses. The Congregation, which helps the poor and is itself poor, cannot afford the cost and has asked for our support,” ACN says.

The Pontifical organization observes that the unresolved trauma could lead some of the young Sisters to suffer an emotional crisis and abandon their vocation.