BAPEC/PRES/2017/28 – 4th October 2017
DECLARATION OF THE BISHOPS OF THE BAMENDA PROVINCIAL EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE (BAPEC) FOLLOWING THE MASSIVE DEMONSTRATIONS
AND THE CURFEW IMPOSED ON THE NORTH WEST AND SOUTH WEST REGIONS FROM FRIDAY, 29TH SEPTEMBER TO MONDAY, 2ND OCTOBER 2017.
“If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace!” (Lk. 19:42)
1. Since Friday, 22nd September 2017, and particularly from midnight on Friday, 29th September to midnight on Monday, 2nd October 2017, the people of the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, which regions are coterminous with the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda, have gone through a very challenging and crucial period. Although the danger is not yet over, we, the Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC), consider it our bounded and God-given duty to make this declaration at this point in time to share with our brothers and sisters and people of good will what we have gone through up till now and possibly to contribute to the prevention of the worse that may still come if our voice, which is that of the voiceless, and similar other well-intentioned voices are not heeded by the competent authorities.
2. “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they were no more.” (Mt. 2:18; cf. Jer. 31:15). This lamentation of the Prophet Jeremiah is once more a reality as it was with the brutal murder of the Holy Innocents in the place of the Infant Jesus. From Bota in Fako to Ako in Donga Mantung, from Bakassi in Ndian to Menji in Lebialem, families are weeping for their children, for they are no more. Since Friday, 29th September 2017, there have been various forms of violence and atrocities that have bedevilled most towns and villages of the North West and South West Regions, which coincide with the territory of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province, resulting to even the supreme loss of human lives. The groans from the dying and shrieks of the wounded make our hearts bleed from pain. The sighs of those who have lost property through looting or arson, the pain of anxiety inflicted on families and friends of those abducted or missing, the trauma caused on the young and the old by the fright from the warlike atmosphere of last weekend in particular have left another heap of painful memories in our minds and hearts. We want, in the first place, to express our profound grief and sympathies to those families who in the recent crisis have lost their dear ones. We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died. May the Risen Lord welcome them into his Kingdom. We express our solidarity with those who have sustained injuries and those suffering in any way, those arrested and incarcerated, and the families that have been separated from their loved ones or displaced. May the Crucified Lord, with whom they are now hanging on the Cross, be their consolation.
3. In the Gospel of Luke (19:41-42) we are told that when Jesus drew near to the city of Jerusalem he shed tears over it and said: “If you in your turn had only understood on this day the message of peace!” Following the initial peaceful demonstration of Lawyers of the Common Law, the sit-down strike of the Teachers’ Trade Unions in November 2016, on 6th December 2016, we, the Bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province, in an Appeal concerning the Sit-down Strike Action Called by the Teachers’ Trade Unions of the English-Speaking Subsystem of Education, pointed out that it is important to respect the conventions that bind us together as a people and that the bicultural nature of Cameroon, which enriches our diversity, should be a treasured commodity that guides our interaction with each other as children of the same fatherland. We also condemned in very unequivocal terms the violence perpetuated by some groups of young people on the one hand and the acts of brutality, torture, inhuman and unjustified treatment meted out to some of our youths by the Forces of Law and Order on the other hand. We called on the Government to restrain such barbaric action of the Forces of Law and Order and to bring to justice those of them who had been irresponsible, so that peace may reign.
4. Unfortunately, the Government did not heed our appeal, but the CPDM Ruling Party went on to organise a so-called ‘Peace March’, which provoked the resistance of most of the people and the subsequent reaction of the Forces of Law and Order that led to further violence on 8th December 2016. Violence begets violence! The consequent result of the violence on that day was the shooting of unarmed youths by the Forces of Law and Order, a black Thursday indeed in Bamenda! Despite the call of the Archbishop of Bamenda for the demilitarisation of Bamenda Town and the rest of the towns of the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, the military presence in the area was rather increased and many more persons were arrested and ferried to Yaoundé.