Attacks on clergy are increasing in the anglophone areas of Cameroon, as tensions rise between English-speaking separatists and the French-speaking government. Bishop Michael Bibi of Bamenda in anglophone south-west Cameroon told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that the spiralling conflict between separatist groups and the francophone central government is putting Church workers at risk.
He said: "The Church is on the front line. A priest and a seminarian have both been murdered in the anglophone region. In the case of the latter it was a deliberate execution, staged in front of his church in the presence of the parishioners."
Nineteen-year-old seminarian Akiata Gerard Anjiangwe was killed by soldiers on 4 October 2018 outside St Therese's Church in Bamessing village, near Ndop, northwest Cameroon.
The bishop added: "Sadly, these two are not simply isolated cases. I receive alarming news from many priests and religious who have been shot at, or kidnapped and ransomed. I myself have been arrested, but they let me go again after a few hours."
Bishop Bibi told ACN that, despite renewing its efforts to promote dialogue between separatists and the government, the Church is accused by both parties of taking sides.
He said: "We tell the young people to stay in school and not join the militias, that it will lead to nothing - and so the militias accuse us of playing the government's game for them.
"But we also denounce the actions of the government army and call for the region to be demilitarised - and so all of a sudden we are accused by the authorities of siding with the rebels.
"The truth we speak is not welcome in the midst of this fratricidal conflict. The truth is that both sides are involved in the killing and are only adding violence to violence."
He added: "Thanks be to God, the Cameroonian people have a strong faith… What is needed now is for our political leaders to be likewise illuminated by this faith."
Requesting support for the country, Bishop Bibi said: "We need the prayers of ACN and we also need practical help for the victims of the conflict in the anglophone region, in line with the words of Jesus: 'I was hungry, and you fed me, naked, and you clothed me.'"
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