YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – As the separatist conflict continues to escalate in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions, the country’s Anglophone bishops warned that “those who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
The Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province covers Cameroon’s English speaking North West and South West Regions. Separatists in the two regions been fighting for the past five years to break away from the rest of Cameroon, which is majority French-speaking, and form a new nation they call Ambazonia.
In a statement after their 72nd ordinary meeting held Feb. 10-11, the prelates noted “with deep pain and regret, the deteriorating socio political situation that has prevailed in the North West and South West Regions for a very long time now.”
The bishops expressed “solidarity with the suffering, oppressed and displaced persons and refugees,” and said they will continue to “condemn violent methods of resolving disputes, because violence usually leads to greater suffering and “those who take the sword will perish by the sword,” quoting the Gospel of Matthew.
At least 4000 people have died in the conflict, and more than a million forced to flee from their homes, according to UN estimates.
They bishops said they shared “in the sorrows and anxieties, and joys and hopes of their people,” and invoked “our Lady of Lourdes, to intercede for all our sick brothers and sisters and for all of us in our search for lasting justice and peace.”
Communion and solidarity with Bishop Michael Bibi
The bishops also used their meeting to denounce the continued attacks on the Bishop of Buea, Michael Bibi.
Some in the diocese have reacted negatively the various personnel changes made by the bishop since he assumed the office of apostolic administrator in 2019 (he became the bishop of the diocese in 2021.)
On June 20, 2020, he appointed Prof. Victor Julius Ngoh as Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University Institute of Buea, replacing Father George Nkeze Jingwa, who was asked to take a sabbatical leave.
Members of the University Council disapproved of the change and took the bishop to court, prompting the Vatican to intervene.
Bibi also outlawed certain lay associations which he said were created without due authorization.
In an online petition against Bibi, he was described as “an emperor and a tyrant bishop.”
The petition accuses the prelate of destroying Catholicism in the Buea Diocese, and of committing “xenophobia against innocent priests of God who are duly incardinated into Buea Diocese in accordance with Can. 265.”
But in their Feb. 11 statement, the bshops of the Bamenda province said they were shocked and saddened by the scale of the attacks, and expressed solidarity with Bibi.
“Our hearts were deeply saddened by the unfortunate turn of events in the Diocese of Buea, characterized by gross disrespect of the hierarchy of the Church, casting of aspersions on Bishop Michael Bibi, and deliberate distortion and manipulation of facts in order to misinform, divide and mislead the public through social media and other media organs, on certain important decisions taken by the Bishop in his attempt to bring the Diocese to align perfectly with the mind and practices of the Church.” the prelates said.
“We express our solidarity and communion with his Lordship Bishop Michael Bibi, whose decisions are in perfect alignment with the mind and discipline of the Church on these matters,” the statement added.
They called on the faithful of the Diocese of Buea to stay vigilant and work in communion with Bibi for the purpose of building a united and prosperous Diocese.
“While commending each one of you to Divine Protection through the intercession of Our Lady Queen of Peace, we ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, with all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,” the bishops continued.
“With knowledge of God’s will, wisdom, and understanding that comes from the Holy Spirit, you will be able to live as the Lord wants and will always do what pleases him. Your lives will produce all kinds of good deeds, and you will grow in your knowledge.”
Bibi will be celebrating his first anniversary of his canonical possession of the Diocese of Buea on Feb. 25.