PC(USA) webinar explores ending the violence in Cameroon and aiding those seeking asylum
June 26, 2021
How to put an end to the killing of schoolchildren and thousands of others in Cameroon — and ways to support Cameroonians seeking asylum in other countries, including the United States — was the topic of a recent webinar attended by more than 300 people.
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued a Call to Prayer for the people of Cameroon. He said Cameroon has a special place in his heart: His mother, who would have turned 100 on the day of the webinar, spent time there working as a Presbyterian missionary.
“It is hurting to our own heart regarding the violence, which has touched so many,” Nelson said. “Why should Presbyterians care? Because it is a place in crisis, and something about our faith drives us and calls us to places where people are left behind.”
In addition, Presbyterians care about the situation “because we care about asylum- seeking,” Nelson said. “The work of our General Assemblies has dealt with immigration and asylum-seeking — the real work that needs to be done in bringing people together. Our immigration enforcement system is very broken.”
“It’s not enough to say we believe in Jesus Christ if we aren’t willing to put ourselves and our spirit on the line,” Nelson said. “That we are doing, and we will continue to do it.”
Guerline Jozef, president of the San Diego-based The Haitian Bridge Alliance, said her organization is increasingly working with asylum-seeking Cameroonians at the U.S.-Mexico border. She introduced Daniel; a young Cameroonian helped by the Haitian Bridge Alliance. He said his current call to action is that Temporary Protected Status be granted for other Cameroonians similarly situated. He said he went through the asylum process after spending six months locked up in a U.S. detention center.
“It’s of utmost importance,” he said, “that we do something about what is happening right now.”
“Daniel’s story is why we do what we do,” Jozef said as she and other Haitian Bridge Alliance staff were preparing to present to a congressional contingent. “He receives calls on a daily basis from people still in detention … We want to make sure we center the voices of those who have been through the journey and are fighting for those they left behind.”
“We stand on the Word of God,” Jozef said. “Let’s continue to entertain those angels God has brought into our path.”
Saying that “personal stories help,” Jaff Bamenjo, coordinator of the Network Against Hunger in Cameroon (RELUFA), said his aunt, a retired nurse, saw her house in Cameroon burned down last year. “She’s been reduced to nothing,” he said. Her children now live with Bamenjo’s family, some of the estimated 700,000 Cameroonians who’ve been internally displaced by the violence.
“The conflict cannot be solved with a gun,” Bamenjo said. “It is a political problem that requires a political solution, which is dialogue.” Because neither side trusts the other, a third-party mediator will be required, he said.
Citing specifically the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Joining Hands initiative, Bamenjo said that support from the PC(USA) “is putting a smile on people’s faces. … I cherish what the PC(USA) is doing and what Presbyterians in the U.S. are doing. Continue to pray for the people affected in Cameroon and contact your elected officials to engage the government.”
The Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, said he’s “thankful to God I have sisters and brothers in America with whom I can share my feelings and the problems we are going through.”
Some church-run schools remain functional, he said, but few are at capacity.
“We lost a pastor to a bullet. Some have been kidnapped, and some have run away from their parishes,” he said. “We had to close our lone university.”
Many refugees have fled to Nigeria, he said. Their care is “a huge responsibility on the church,” he said. “We can’t see Christians suffering without doing anything.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Violence in Cameroon
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Almighty God, on the steep path of our calling, we ask that you keep us faithful. Lead us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. We praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, who is alive in all that is good. Amen.