PARISHES SEND EMERGENCY AID
TO SISTER DIOCESE IN CAMEROON
Kind hearted people from the parishes are sending emergency help to clergy and residents in
Portsmouth’s sister Diocese who are under threat from political unrest. The Archdiocese of Bamenda in Cameroon is caught up in spiralling violence following initial peaceful protests by English speakers over their alleged marginalisation by the French speaking Government. Following harsh military intervention, groups of English-speaking insurgents have since been agitating for an independent break-away state and their demand for the population to observe “ghost days” where businesses and services are shut down is being regularly observed for fear of reprisal.
In a disturbing incident Bishop Michael Bibi was recently abducted by the so-called Amba Boys for travelling during a stay-at-home protest and held for four hours at gunpoint in a forest clearing.
The brave Bishop has revealed on a subsequent visit to Portsmouth Diocese that he was “waiting for the worst” when the separatists threatened him and his two travelling companions with their lives and prepared to burn their car.
He was released only after one of his captors said he used to be an altar boy and they all accepted a gift of rosaries, with the Bishop “gently” explaining to them that he was on his way to celebrate Mass. Children are at the centre of the crisis because the majority of schools have been closed for three academic years.
The Portsmouth Bamenda Committee has launched special projects for 2019 – funded by the Bamenda Sunday Collection – with the crisis in mind. A youth project is set to divert children from involvement in the troubles by providing a church youth centre and the opportunity to learn some computer skills.
A further donation is funding the purchase of a vehicle enabling the healthcare co-ordinator to provide outreach to the health centres throughout the north-west region of Cameroon which is adversely affected. An emergency meeting of the committee has agreed to send an extra £10,000 to support the work of an Ad Hoc Commission which has been set up by Archbishop Cornelius in Bamenda. “We are supporting its provision of food, clothing, medical outreach and access to justice for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),” said Jo Overton, vice-chair of the Portsmouth Bamenda Committee.
“The Archdiocese is facing huge challenges at this time. The Catholic Church in Bamenda finds itself caught between two stools. There are atrocities on both sides and we are taking a human rights stance.” Bishop Philip has asked parishes to support a Lenten appeal in support of Bamenda Archdiocese and the Portsmouth Bamenda Committee is keeping regular contact with friends in Cameroon, assuring them of solidarity and prayers. The Committee is asking people to urge their MPs to seek assurances that the UK Government is taking all reasonable steps to seek a peaceful resolution of the troubles.
Portsmouth has been twinned with Bamenda since 1974 with the Diocese supporting projects in the areas of Faith, Health, Education and Social Welfare. These include youth education, clean water, health equipment and church construction.
Donations for the appeal can be made via cheque to The Bamenda Commission co/the Treasurer Deacon Gerard Dailly or on the donate button on the website bamendaandportsmouth.com