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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Cameroon Political Crisis: The silence of the church

It was a Sunday night, the post-election crisis had just crossed a new level. The regime had decided to embellish manu militari nearly 200 activists of the MRC. They were protesting, among other things, against the electoral heist, widespread corruption and the war in the NOSO.

Throughout the city, the tension was palpable and discussions were inexorably going around these latest events. At Mamie Tong's bar, everyone goes for their little comment and their small observation.Mamie Makala forbade political discussions in her donut shop for fear of reprisals, which was not enough to deter young people from the kwatt. The purchase of the BHB (donuts-porridge-bean) and the central location that occupied its donut Kwatt made this place an inevitable and inviting meeting point.The debates were interesting and constructive. And when the discussions became stormy, there was always the smoke of the main focus, the spice called "without boxers" of mania Makala and his "I will chase you eh" to relax the atmosphere and friendly laughter.

Sitting in a corner of the donut shop, I watched the scene with great interest. I was amazed by the youth who had decided to take an interest in politics more than ever. What was once reserved for a small world of insiders became more and more the public thing, the public thing. I must admit that I sometimes want to join this group to confront my point of view, reframe the discussion or calm the spirits that seemed to warm up whenever the ethnic issue was addressed. In the end, I refrained from interfering so as not to undermine the dynamics. For in my kwatt, the argument of authority still holds divine truth. From the moment I took a position, some would have said in my wake: "Even the big to confirm what I said father. I'm done with you. " However, the interest of such an exchange resided more the confrontation of the arguments than in determination of the one who was right or wrong.

In short, that evening, all the variables and parameters were questioned, questioned, analyzed with great sagacity. And as often in the various parts of the kwatt, they passed from the cock to the soul without transition, but in an overall movement that stood despite everything.

In this discursive waltz, an exchange especially caught my attention. It dealt with the attitude of religious authorities in general and that of the Catholic Church in particular. It was the one who presented himself as the most traditionalist of the group who first rang the charge:

"And since the peaceful protesters were arrested there, have you heard your religions and imported churches take a stand? I'm even going away. Since the CAN scandal was withdrawn, have you heard an Imam or a Bishop open his mouth to say "Enough"?On the contrary, it was necessary to see them kougna kougna spoke of the Unit to greet Paul Biya during the ceremony of presentation of the vows ".
And to add:

"I have always told you that your imported religions were in the pay of the Western powers and the Colonial underlings ..."
Before he had finished his talk a Christian of the group, Albert, had already taken it again:

"Godefroy, you exaggerate. You mix everything and you are full of contradictions. One blow, you ask the Church not to meddle in politics, another shot you say that the Church is guilty of not getting involved in politics. What do you want in the end? "

" Albert says Godefroy, it's you who want to see a contradiction in my remarks. I know that your religious conviction has become a prison for you.When the episcopal conference took position before the elections, she asked for my opinion? Why this sudden silence? "

" Mbom let my quiet belief. The Church did not interfere in the affairs of the city. Cameroon is a secular country [1]. The church must be satisfied with announcing the gospel of Christ and not taking sides.Let us give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God ".

This reply, given in a peremptory tone, did not fail to arouse an amused commentary by Godefroy.

"Akaaaaa leaves the stories there type. She does not intervene because she is corrupted by the regime in place. We know you and me that the mouth that eats does not speak and the hand that gives command. "(Laughs)!
It was at this moment of discussion that Flore decided to speak. She was considered the youngest and wisest of the group. She had a brilliant university education and was constantly coming back to the neighborhood to take care of her elderly parents.

"I've been listening to you since then and I can not help but mark my agreements and especially my disagreements with you two. First, following my academic career in Catholic institutions, I retain that the Church has a prophetic mission that resonates with her social teaching. In fact, it is concerned with the condition of the whole human condition, that is, its spiritual, political, social, economic, and so on.Moreover, remember what Bishop Ndongmo said in 1963 to all those who wanted to confine prelates to the presbytery. He said and I quote it explicitly: "The state believes that we must preach a disembodied Christianity, speak of heaven, angels, without touching the vital realities of each day. But the gospel of Christ is not a theory, but a life. It fits into the whole life of the man involved in the family, politics, profession and the union.

"Preach my sister," said the other participants in the discussion.

"In reality," continued Flore, "the Church could have used its moral authority and influence to influence the course of events. Alas, like the country, it is crossed by power struggles, internal wars, strategies of positioning, tribalism, corruption and black records (mores). Its proximity to power immediately condemns it to silence if not vague, general or sluggish statements on social justice. Dependent in part on the underground financing of the state, it will denounce only timidly the mal-governance of which the person in charge and the tutelary figure is nothing other than Biya ".

"My sister, has it become the trial of the Church?Exclaimed Albert.

"No," replied Flore! In fact, this is nothing new huh. It is enough to hand down Cameroon to realize that the ecclesiastical silence under the background of betrayal of the people has often characterized the Church. Mongo Beti in 1972 said almost word for word that far from being a national institution, the Cameroonian Church presents itself as an alienated organization, which has not made its revolution, and that continue to fall asleep a platitude and good conscience inherited of colonization. Veneration of the established authorities, deference to the powerful and the rich, insensitivity to the distress of the ignorant and destitute masses, ostentatious collaboration with a regime which is maintained by the uninterrupted shedding of blood, these are some of the defects of which it suffers. Cameroonian Church ".

"Wouaisss My sister is going down a bit," said a member of the group. You long pencils there, you can not speak without quoting the authors? In short, speak down-to-earth so that I can understand too. "
"You see that you do not contradict my position," Godefroy said. We say the same thing.

"No," retorted Flore. Your approach is too generalizing. Do not throw away the baby with bath water. The church is not a homogeneous entity ... and has never been. Remember that at the time of Ahidjo there was already a difference of approach or even a marked rivalry between Bishop Ndongmo and Bishop Jean Zoa. Both were poles apart in their respective relations to political power.

"I remember that I was there? (All and all laughed)

"But no Godefroy, it's just a way of saying that within the Church, the figure of the priest prebend is not the prerogative of all. Some do not hesitate, moreover, during the homilies to denounce anti-democratic drifts which one attends today. Think for example of this Jesuit, I forget even his name. On Facebook as in the press, he never stops criticizing the silence of the Church and the authoritarianism of the regime.

"Flora, it's all corn. They denounce in their rooms instead of speaking publicly? Why not call the press to call for the release of the MRC members? Why not write a statement to expose corruption with specific examples? Why not call for peaceful marches to invite all parties to a dialogue for peace at NOSO? "

So, you're right, Godefroy. This Church through its influence could be more proactive. Even in the absence of a common ecclesiastical position, some members of the clergy should in their conscience denounce the current situation in Cameroon. This is what happened recently in the DRC. Moreover, my father often tells me that the tartufferie and cowardice of the hierarchy of the diocese of Bafoussam did not dissuade the basic priests of the said diocese from publishing in 1970 a collective reply to the arrest of Bishop Ndongmo. "

Listening to your different arguments, I humbly poured water into my wine. Yes, I think that the silence éclériiiii... siast, in short, the silence of the Cameroonian clergy can indeed pass for a betrayal. If the Church does not want history to remember that it was not with the people when it was fighting for its liberation, it must come out of that sullen silence in which it has confined itself and take a clear stand against the excesses of the regime. "

" Voilàaaaaa! exclaimed Albert, with his hands towards the ground. It's coming off! A mof mide!Mbom, take a 50-25-25 (donuts of 50 FCFA, beans of 25 and porridge of 25). It's on me. "

There followed a general laughter and yet another cut light. The third of the day. In this gloomy setting, the evening seemed more than ever very advanced. It was then that everyone decided to "get out of camp", while meeting at the same time and place the next day to continue the discussion.

What party! I had just learned a little more about the culpability of ecclesiastical silence in times of crisis.All night long, I was wondering how to get the content of this discussion up to the top of the Church hierarchy, with the title: people are watching you.The ball is in your camp.