YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Calls for peace rang out from churches across Cameroon as well as from Pope Francis himself, as Catholics in the Central African country celebrated the Feast of the Assumption on August 15.
“The Assumption is a source of great hope for us all,” said Veronica Foy, President of the Catholic Women’s Association of the Diocese of Buea in Cameroon’s troubled Southwest region, where English, rather the nationally dominant French, is the most widely spoken language.
“Before the feast, the CWA went through a nine-day Novena” to pray for a return to peace in the country, she told Crux.
Battered by Boko Haram incursions to the North, a separatist war to the west and an increasing inflow of refugees from neighboring Central African Republic to the east, Cameroon is a country in trouble.
The sheer number of deaths and displaced persons bear testimony to this: Six years of fighting amid the separatist war, according to the International Crisis Group, has left at least 6,000 people dead with over a million displaced from their homes.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa killed 339 people in 2021, just 61 shy of the number that were killed in 2020.
By December 31, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees had identified 358,000 internally displaced people and 117,000 refugees in need of humanitarian assistance in the far North region of Cameroon as a result of terrorist activity.
“We pray that she [the Virgin Mary] intercedes for us as individuals, as families, as a community, as a Church to grant all our wishes. We are especially demanding that peace be restored in the north west and south west region, and indeed, across the entire African continent and the entire world,” Foy said.
Pope Francis used his August 13 Angelus prayer to note that Cameroon is a nation “still suffering from violence and war.”
“Let us join in prayer with our brothers and sisters in Cameroon so that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, God may sustain the hope of the people who have been suffering for years and open ways of dialogue to reach harmony and peace,” the pope said.
Foy voiced gratitude for Francis’s words.
“The Holy Father prayed particularly for Cameroon, so our hope is that all these prayers go straight into the ears of our mother Mary who has taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven,” she said. We know she is the Queen of Heaven and earth and we hope that she will answer our prayer, and restore peace to a troubled world.”
She said CWA members used the Aug. 15 feast day to pray “for private intentions, families, for the youths because there is a lot of moral decadence, for peace and justice in the family, Cameroon, Africa and the world. “
In Cameroon’s Kumbo diocese, the epicenter of separatist violence that pits Francophones and Anglophones against one another, Bishop George Nkuo said if Cameroon’s problems are to be resolved, then the people must get more involved in shaping the outcomes of various actions.
Nkuo said it’s the kind of engagement for which Mary is known and honored.
“Mary engaged the people and pleaded with Jesus on their behalf. She accompanied people in crisis and channeled the energy, love and hope of God to them,” Nkuo said in his homily for the Feast of the Assumption.
He challenged Christians not to “remain neutral bystanders in the tragedies that unfold before us.”
“We cannot excuse ourselves from the duty of accompanying people in crisis and channeling the energy, love and hope of God to them. It is integral to being a religious to speak and act on behalf of those considered dispensable and even disposable by our society.”
“Therefore, whether it is the unborn, the vulnerable, the refugee et cetera, we are called to follow the example of Mary in protecting, safeguarding and enabling every human life to achieve its full potential,” he said.
Nkuo said Mary’s Assumption means that good will eventually triumph “over evil, violence and death,” but warned that will only be possible if Christians unite against evil.
“On this feast of the Assumption, we acknowledge that Mary is closer to us than ever, if only we would welcome her, if only we would give her permission to entrust our lives to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Mary, assumed into heaven, Mary, the Queen of Peace, pray for us!”
In Yaoundé, Archbishop Jean Mbarga said Cameroon’s myriad security challenges are caused partly by poverty and unemployment, which have forced many youths into a life of banditry, killings, and the incessant search for “greener pastures.”
Source : Crux Now