YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Catholics are expressing outrage at the desecration of the Mary Queen of Peace Shrine Nsimalen, in the outskirts of Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.

Unknown vandals attacked the sanctuary on the night of April 2 to 3, 2024, according to Archbishop Jean Mbarga.

“The unidentified individuals destroyed four icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary, as well as the 14 stations of the Stations of the Cross,” the archbishop said in an April 4 statement.

The archbishop condemned the attack but noted that it “reminds us that Christ has not finished suffering in his love for humanity. The violence perpetrated is an unacceptable sacrilege that God will overcome.”

He described the shrine as “a sacred place that promotes the values of prayer and peace in our Church and in our society,” and explained that despite the attack, “the Shrine of Mary Queen of Peace at Nsimalen lives and will always live.”

Bertha Fonyam, a leading member of the CWA Executive membership, told Crux that she was not surprised that the sanctuary was attacked because it demonstrates the devil’s continued war against Mary and all that is good.

“If that Sanctuary was attacked, I won’t be surprised,” Fonyam said.

“That is the work of the Devil. There is a war between the devil and God,” she said.

She drew parallels with the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden when the devil came in the form of a snake and tempted Eve.

“Mary is the new Eve, and the devil is still after her,” she explained, before emphasizing her determination to never sway from her faith in the face of such persecution.

“They can go and shatter whatever they are shattering, they will not shatter what is in our hearts and our understanding of Mary and it will not deter us from going there,” said Fonyam.

“The Marian Sanctuary is a place of prayer, and that particular sanctuary in Nsimalen … we know that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared there on the 13th of May 1986. I actually was in Yaoundé at the time and I visited the place. At the time, when you visited the site, you could see the ground under the tree that she perched on was illuminating,” she recalled.

She said she was back at the Shrine a week before the attack to pray and carry water from the area – water that she believes has the blessings of the Virgin Mary whom she described as “our co-redemptorist.”

“We know the role of the Blessed Mother. Today [April 8] happens to be the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We know how the Angel came and announced the Good News of the Birth of a Savior to her, and the fulfillment of things that were promised in the Old Testament. So we know that she is a direct link between us and Heaven because Jesus, the Son of God, the Second person of the Blessed Trinity is both divine and human and He got the human aspects of His nature from His mother-Mary,” said Fonyam.

“That is why we go to pray to her because we call her the “co-redemptorist” because she cooperated in in our redemption closely-from the moment the Angel came to her which feast we are celebrating today as she gave her fiat: Let it be done unto me according to thy will. And from that moment, the babe started living in His heart and that is why the Feast of the Annunciation is nine months to the feast of Christmas,” she continued.

“And so when we go there, we honor Mary – she is our intercessor, she is our co-redemptorist, and we know that Jesus’s first miracle was done at her requests. We know that there is nothing that she will intercede and beg Jesus and Jesus will not give us, like they did at the wedding feast at Canaan. So all Catholic Christians are Children of Mary and those who are devotees are those who actually take their time and sit at her feet and take her as a mother and try to imitate her,” she said.

Mbarga called on Christians to offer a Rosary novena “so that his divine Mercy and holy Providence may triumph.”

The archbishop also called on Christians to “unite their efforts for the penance, reparation and restoration of the Shrine.”

“May the Blessed Virgin Mary, from heaven, rekindle the fervent faith of his people, the conversion of one another and the promotion of peace in our country and in the world,” Mbarga said.