Bishop Bruno’s plea to the world – Help us to achieve peace
Cameroon is sandwiched between two of the major crisis regions in Central and Western Africa, namely Nigeria and the Central African Republic. Nigeria, where the Boko Haram terrorist group has carried out many terrible atrocities, is only a little over 40 miles (60 km) from the provincial capital and seat of the diocese, Maroua. Bishop Bruno Ateba, the bishop of Maroua reports that the people in the frontier region and in the provincial capital are traumatised, living in fear of further terrorist attacks. Just a short while ago, on September 3, Boko Haram struck again in the North when two women blew themselves up in a crowded market place, causing a bloodbath.
According to Bishop Ateba, there are more than a hundred thousand people in the area who have been driven from their homes. Around 52,600 people, above all refugees from the crisis in Nigeria, are living in the Minawao refugee camp around 25 miles (40 km) from Maroua. In addition to this there are over 50,000 Cameroonians who have been made refugees within their own country, for fear of Boko Haram. Many of them have taken refuge with relatives or in public buildings. Bishop Ateba has withdrawn the foreign missionaries from the frontier region. “Life is too dangerous there for people with white skin“, he told ACN in explanation of his decision. Northern Cameroon is heavily dependent on tourism but the tourists are no longer coming since Boko Haram began to terrorise the region. “We‘ve been brought to a standstill“, says the bishop, summarising the feelings of the people here who depend on tourism.
For the time being, thanks to a strong presence of the army and police, it has been possible to maintain a certain degree of normality but this is far from any real peace. So Bishop Ateba is appealing to the world “Help us to achieve peace. Without peace we can do nothing. The international community has all the resources to put an end to the terrorism of Boko Haram.“
In a letter sent around the middle of August to all the faithful of his diocese Bishop Ateba urges them to pray and be watchful. “It is important for our own security that we work together with the state authorities. Anybody who comes across individuals who appear unfamiliar to him needs to be on his guard. If their behaviour is in any way suspicious, the police should immediately be informed about them.“ This is particularly the case along the border between the two countries, since in many places this border is not clearly marked so it is easy for terrorists to enter into the country. The houses of the Kanuri tribe are often built right on the border: “One room is in Nigeria, another is in Cameroon“, the bishop explains.
During the year 2014 the international Catholic pastoral charity ACN helped by contributing over 1.13 million Euros for the pastoral work of the Church in Cameroon. Bishop Ateba is very grateful for this. For many years now the charity has also been helping for the training of seminarians and priests from the diocese of Maroua-Mokolo. Thanks to the generosity of its benefactors, ACN has also helped to build a multipurpose hall close to the refugee camp in Minawao, where the Catholic refugees from the camp can meet together to pray and attend Holy Mass. Another important project for which ACN is helping, and one dear to the heart of Bishop Ateba, is for the construction of a Catholic cathedral in Maroua. In fact the foundations have already been laid. Now is a matter of building the walls.