, 29 November, 2019 / 2:01 AM
In the Central African country of Cameroon where the Anglophone crisis has affected livelihoods and the functioning of institutions, a Bishop recently took an informed decision to suspend priestly apostolate in some parishes, withdrawing priests who have been targeted in cases of kidnappings and harassment.
“I have withdrawn all the priests from the Parishes of Kembong, Ossing and Eyumojock and they will be out of the Parishes till further notice,” Bishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Mamfe Diocese in Cameroon stated in a pastoral letter seen by ACI Africa Thursday, November 28.
Bishop Nkea explained, “I have suspended all development projects in these parishes because the very people for whom the projects are meant, have made the areas unsafe for any development, and even those who work on these projects are not safe.”
His decision, Bishop Nkea noted, “will hold good for any other parish where the people decide to harass their priests.”
The Cameroonian Prelate recounted how, on October 20, a Nigerian “Fidei Donum” Priest Fr. Felix Sunday was kidnapped while heading to celebrate a second mass in one of the parishes in Cameroon’s Mamfe diocese.
“On Friday, 1st November, 2019, four gunmen went into the Presbytery of Kembong Parish,” the Bishop recounted another incidence of harassment where armed men confronted “the parish priest and his assistant at gunpoint and (ordered) that they must be given one million Francs CFA before they are released.”
Though the Priests were released in that unfortunate incidence, the Bishop revealed that the attacks on priests were targeted on him “because he attended the National Dialogue in Yaounde” and that all those who attended the dialogue from the locality must pay a fine.
“What was painful about these abductions is that some of the Christians knew either hours or days beforehand that this would happen and never warned the priests,” the Bishop lamented and probed, “What is the crime of these priests?”
In the letter, Bishop Nkea lauded priests who have continued to serve despite their personal security saying, “Through the heavy gun shots, the fire and the dangers to life, our heroic priests remained among their people as true shepherds who would never abandon their sheep in times of danger.”
He further stated, “This pastoral consciousness and commitment even ended up in the tragic death of Rev. Fr. Cosmas Ondari Omboto. Yet the priests did not feel discouraged and they did not abandon their flock.”
Blaming the attacks on the separatists fighters, the Bishop expressed the need for some guarantee of the safety of the priests before they can be reassigned saying, “These boys who harass the priests are from these villages, and until the population dialogue with their children and give me a written guarantee of the safety of the pastors who work for them, the parishes will remain without pastors.”
Addressing himself to the separatist fighters, Bishop Nkea described them as “boys who have caused this embarrassment to the entire Christian community and their villages” and appealed that they “change their hearts and work towards the growth and progress of their various communities.”
He also called on the separatist fighters to “collaborate with their village and Christian leaders, so that their priests can return soonest to their parishes and continue to work in peace.”
He invited all Christians “to appreciate and value their priests especially for the services they render to them.”
“Your priests love you and they are ready to continue serving you with all their hearts, their minds and their energy,” he concluded.
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