A classroom in Cameroon

A classroom in Cameroon.

Two years ago, seventy-eight students and three staff members were abducted from the Presbyterian Secondary School (PSS) in Nkwen, Bamenda. A week before that, eleven students were traumatized when they were kidnapped and held for ransom. The incidents drew attention to the deepening political conflict in Cameroon’s two most western regions, the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest Regions, and to the conflict’s particular impact on children.

Unfortunately, military action has sidelined dialogue in the quest for a solution to this crisis, which is causing the population much suffering. In the past two weeks there have been new attacks on schools in these regions. On October 24, 2020, yet unidentified assailants opened fire on students in a classroom at Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba, Southwest Region. Seven children, between the ages of nine and twelve, were killed and nearly twenty others badly wounded.

Then, on Tuesday, November 3, just after prayers at Presbyterian primary and secondary schools in Kumbo, Northwest Region, twelve teachers were kidnapped. One apparently escaped by jumping off a motorcycle used to abduct the teachers. The following day, armed men reportedly attacked Kulu Memorial College in Limbe, Southwest Region. Teachers and students were said to have been stripped and beaten and buildings set on fire. Earlier today, November 5, the teachers from the schools in Kumbo were released safely. We give thanks to God that there was not a loss of life, but we continue to raise the alarm about these troubling trends in which schools, children and teachers, are targets of violence and intimidation.

According to UNICEF, 81 percent of the children were out of school during the 2019–2020 academic year in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. The violence in this part of the country has displaced more than 700,000 people. The Presbyterian Church of Cameroon and other partners like the Network for the Fight Against Hunger in Cameroon (RELUFA) lament the fact that so many children are lacking education because of the crisis, as well as the total destitution in which most of the displaced persons live in other towns in Cameroon without any source of livelihood. They have been working to provide support to internally displaced persons who have fled from the violence in these two regions.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and other partners in the country in vehemently condemning these violent acts that deprive children of their rights to education. We commend the Ecumenical Forum on the Anglophone Crisis (Ecumenical Forum) in Cameroon’s impassioned plea to the president of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya, to address current security, humanitarian, and human rights challenges in Cameroon. We believe that engaging a real, inclusive, and transparent dialogue will be key to addressing the root causes of this crisis, which continues to kill and displace families and create a climate of chaos in the country.

Accusations abound as to who is responsible for these attacks. We agree with the Ecumenical Forum’s assessment that “an independent investigation into what happened at the Mother Francisca Academy will be an essential step to ensure that those responsible will face justice, to serve as a deterrent to others, and to rebuild confidence in the rule of law in Cameroon.” Such an investigation could equally apply to other attacks on schools, or civilians in general.

For more information about this conflict and its origins, please read the following:

A call to prayer on November 7, 2018, by the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, November 7, 2018: https://www.pcusa.org/news/2018/11/7/prayers-cameroon/.

Growing Hostilities in Cameroon: A colonial past continues to divide people in Cameroon—Action Alert by Eileen Schuhmann | Presbyterian Hunger Program, November 12, 2018: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/together-justice/2018/11/12/growing-hostilities-in-cameroon-action-alert/.

Mission connections letter from Jeff Boyd—Crisis in Cameroon, December 2018: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/letter/crisis-in-cameroon/.

Action Alert from the Office of Public Witness of the PC(USA): https://www.votervoice.net/PCUSA/campaigns/77407/respond.

Our partners in Cameroon ask Presbyterians in the U.S.A. to pray for the protection and safe return of those abducted; for comfort and healing for those traumatized by attacks on schools, homes, and villages; and for justice, peace, and reconciliation in Cameroon. Please pray that Cameroon’s public officials, judicial officers, and social influencers will speak and act justly, wisely, and compassionately with the goal of restoring unity and cooperation so that all Cameroonians may enjoy fully their civil and human rights.

The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC) continues to show its deep concern for the long-term consequences of children being denied the opportunity to study. For more than four years most schools in the Northwest and Southwest Regions have not been functioning due to the conflict and threats to teachers and students. The PCC strives to find alternative, safe ways for children to continue their education, such as offering boarding schools in safe zones outside those two regions and by developing a platform for providing online education system based on the national curriculum. Recognizing the important role of education in eradicating system poverty, the PC(USA) will support these efforts as funds are available. For those who wish to give in support of this critical need, you may give via the Extra Commitment Opportunity account E864103 Presbyterian Church in Cameroon.

Checks can be mailed to:

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700

with "E864103 PCC" written in the “memo” portion of the check.

It is good to include a concise cover letter with the check indicating in bold letters the account name, account number, the amount of the gift, and the designation, PCC school solar project. Please share a copy of the cover letter with the regional liaison (jeff.boyd@pcusa.org). Alternatively, one can give using a credit card by going on-line at http://pma.pcusa.org/donate/make-a-gift/gift-info/E864103/.

The moderator of the PCC continues to ask members of the PC(USA) and ecumenical partners to “influence their governments to use their diplomatic powers to help resolve the Anglophone problem.” Please write to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask him to demonstrate U.S. resolve in helping to find a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

For those who wish to stay connected and informed about our ecclesiastic partnerships in Cameroon, please send your contact information to PC(USA) regional liaison, Jeff Boyd at jeff.boyd@pcusa.org. For partnerships about development programs and advocacy, contact valery.nodem@pcusa.org.

In the faith that we share,

The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)