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Crisis in Cameroon

A letter from Jeff and Christi Boyd, mission co-workers serving in Central Africa

December 2018

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

We are passing through the worst of moments in our history as a nation. In every way we have been bruised in body and spirit. We search for justice, peace and comfort, but we have found none. Many are hurting, crushed, devastated, frustrated and left bare! Many are in doubt, anxiety, fear, fright and panic! Jesus’ coming at Christmas is a moment of great relief and hope. May the Lord Jesus Christ take away our burdens at this Christmas! May He restore us to His glorious presence and give us peace and justice this year! And may the New Year bring us new tidings of hope for the future!”

–2018 Christmas Card from the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon

Dear friends and family,

“At a time when fear and uncertainty are looming in the air, at a time when emotions have overtaken reason, at a time when the sacredness of human life has been defiled, at a time when we are creating more enemies than friends, at a time when division seems to be destroying the unity of our people, and at a time when we do not seem to trust each other, we are here again to remind all Presbyterians and the people of Cameroon of our collective responsibility and role as a Church and as a people in these trying moments of our nation and history.” Thus starts the October 10, 2017 official statement of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC) concerning the crisis in Cameroon, often referred to as the Anglophone Crisis.

Students mingling outside the Presbyterian Secondary School in Buea, Southwest Region.

That was a year ago. In the beginning of November of this year, news went around the world that more than 80 students and staff were abducted from Presbyterian Secondary School Nkwen in Bamenda, which is in the Northwest Region. Clearly, the already high level of insecurity became worse. This has not been an isolated situation. The week before, 11 students were kidnapped. While all students and staff were eventually released, some after physical abuse, the school has understandably closed because it cannot ensure the safety of the students.

The moderator of the PCC has shared with me other ways this crisis is impacting the work of the church. Of 22 health centers run by the PCC, seven are non-functional. Presbyterian hospitals have been vandalized, and nurses and doctors are scared to go to work. Of the 1,500 congregations, nearly 1 in 10 are not able to function normally due to insecurity. Fourteen of the 30 presbyteries are deeply affected. Only slightly more than one-third of the church’s 223 primary schools even partially opened their doors for the 2017-2018 school year. Eight of the 22 secondary schools were handed over to a local congregation for management and care. School buildings have been burned. Then there was the kidnapping of students, teachers and a principal. The crisis has caused immense economic hardship to individuals, families, businesses and the Church.

In late 2016, protests against the erosion of certain legal and education provisions that are part of the identity of the Anglophone regions were met with harsh response from the government security forces, leaving many dead. This deepened sentiments of injustice and alienation. As extreme voices become increasingly vocal, moderate voices calling for dialogue, peace and justice have been treated with distrust and contempt.

Lifting up the importance of educating girls at Presbyterian Girls Secondary School.

More than a year after the October 2017 statement from the PCC, it is evident that the call has been largely unheeded by both sides of the conflict that has been described as “an injustice that has punctured the peace of the nation.” The PCC moderator said, “Innocent human blood has flowed and is still flowing! Almost every single family within the Anglophone community has been affected. Those ordering the shooting and killing of God’s children seem to be obsessed and are now doing it for the fun of it.” In a November 5 communique, the moderator called “on the international community not to be aloof, but [to] look for ways to urgently assist in ending this crisis.” Sadly, he further wrote, “We will suspend the education of young Cameroonians provided by the Presbyterian Education Authority wherever there are security challenges.” Reports of kidnapping of students and staff continue in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, in government, and in private and church-run schools.

The PCC calls on all parties to respect life and to be mindful that words matter, that hate speech and abuse of social media have real and deadly consequences for the lives of people in Cameroon. Through the repeated use of social media, opinions and propaganda become accepted as fact, with international actors stoking fears and animosity. With the goal of justice — which is necessary for peace — the Church promotes dialogue that addresses the fundamental issues that sparked this crisis.

Even before the recent abduction of students at the Presbyterian school, out of concern for the long-term consequences of children not getting an education, the PCC took the bold challenge of opening a new school located near Yaounde, considered a safe region. Classrooms and dorm rooms have been built, but there is an urgent need for reliable electricity at the school. Our sisters and brothers of the PCC have approached the PC(USA) and other partners to help the school acquire a solar power system that would provide electricity for the school.

Presbyterian World Mission is already providing a small grant from available funds, about 10% of the $69,000 estimated needed. We will send further support as funds become available. For those who wish to give in support of this urgent project, you may do so via account E864103, Presbyterian Church in Cameroon.

Please know that Christi and I remain grateful for all of you who support Presbyterian World Mission in general, and our sending and support in particular. Please continue. It is because of such support that we are able to help nurture relations between our churches and be a support to PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries that seek information or guidance on how we might accompany our global partners when they face crises. Please know that while we love to visit churches in person, with the internet technologies available today, Christi and I are available to speak to sessions; mission committees; adult or youth Sunday Schools; and PW or other groups, even as we sit in our living room in Kinshasa. Please contact us if that interests you.

Please also find recent communications from the PC(USA) related to the crisis in Cameroon:

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness issued an action alert concerning the crisis in Cameroon.

Our Stated Clerk called on the PC(USA) to pray for the situation in Cameroon.

And Mike Ferguson of Presbyterian News Service wrote a news story about the conflict and how Presbyterians can help.

Let me end by sharing a prayer taken from the liturgy used by the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon during their week of prayer earlier this year. During that week, the PCC raised funds to help many who were displaced by this crisis.

God, our world desperately needs your compassion and grace: We are at war and need to learn peace and understanding; we are greedy and selfish and need to learn to serve and to share the abundance of your world; we are impatient and careless and need to learn to use this world’s resources wisely and sustainably; we are callous and judgmental and need to learn to care for and to befriend one another; and we are among those who are sick, grieving, lonely, broken and wounded. Through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns together with you, O Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, Amen.

Jeff (and Christi) Boyd

Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear partners in God’s mission,

We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.

Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.

Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.

Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.

I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!

In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!

At God’s service and at your service!

José Luis Casal

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!

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