(PNS) The Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, issued a statement yesterday urging peace and dialog in response to ongoing persecution and marginalization of the country’s Anglophone population. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is an ecumenical partner of the PCC and has previously engaged in advocacy on the church’s behalf.
Conflict has arisen in Cameroon as the French-speaking majority continues to exert power and authority over the English-speaking minority. Up to 17 protestors were killed by government forces October 1, 2017, while celebrating the 56th anniversary of Cameroon’s reunification in 1961, following colonial rule by France and England.
Forba said, “[T]he deliberate deleting of the Anglophone culture, dignity and values amongst many other intentional political manipulations from the Plebiscite (February 11, 1961) to the Foumban Conference (May 20, 1972) are attempts to hide a historical fact that, once upon a time, two peoples mutually agreed to live together under international legal instruments.”
Earlier this year, PC(USA) officials wrote a letter urging prayer as leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and other Anglophone-majority denominations were summoned for court appearances in late April. Penned the by Rev. Denise Anderson, Co-Moderator of the PC(USA); the Rev. Jose Luis Casal, Director, World Mission; the Rev. Debbie Braaksma, Africa Coordinator, World Mission; and Jeff Boyd, Regional Liaison for Central Africa, the letter read, in part:
“Please pray that Cameroon’s public officials and judicial officers will deal justly, wisely and compassionately with the concerns being raised by Anglophone Cameroonians, so that a spirit of unity and cooperation may be restored and all of the country’s citizens may enjoy fully their civil and human rights. Please pray particularly for the leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, the Roman Catholic Church of Cameroon and the Cameroon Baptist Convention as they appear in court to defend the actions of their respective churches.”
Foba’s resistance to the persecution of the English speaking population speaks to the direct manner in which they are being suppressed, through the use of military force and other measures.
“The government of the Republic of Cameroon needs to be reminded that one cannot contain a social and political consciousness by military force,” he said. “In the light of the above, the PCC calls for the demilitarization of the two Regions, the cessation of arbitrary arrests and breaking into private homes, the release of all those in detention and a special disbursement of funds for hospital bills to heal the wounded, the sick and the dying.”
While falling short of calling the persecution a civil war or genocide, Foba called attention to the particularly brutal measures being taken that arise from a “family fight,” asking for an independent commission to investigate.
“By common sense, the superiority of the weapons employed for a ‘family fight’ is different from the weapons employed when fighting a foreigner with equal strength. The PCC calls for an Independent Commission to investigate the atrocities committed by the military and hold those who are guilty accountable according to the law enforced,” he said.
In an email relaying Foba’s letter, Boyd asked PC(USA) congregations to “join in the minute of silence in their worship services as this letter calls for PCC congregations to do” as a “sign of solidarity with those seeking peace and reconciliation through honest conversations.”
Updates on this situation will be published as Presbyterian News Service obtains additional information from the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PC(USA) World Mission co-workers and partners, and ecumenical officials.
by Gregg Brekke, Presbyterian News Service