For many years, Cameroon, located in the center of West Africa with a population of almost 26 million, was considered relatively stable compared to its crisis-stricken neighbours. However, in 2016, protest marches started because many people in the English-speaking part of the country felt oppressed by the French-speaking part and started calling for independence. Subsequently, these protests turned into an armed conflict which continues to this day between the separatists of the English-speaking provinces and the French-speaking central government. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless, while thousands lost their lives.
Children and young people in particular have become the victims of the pervasive violence, and many are deeply traumatized. These young people also have few prospects for a better future or a meaningful way of life. Most of the schools in the region have been closed for several years and the children are on their own. Many teenagers joined armed rebel groups and there was an increase in drug abuse and promiscuity. In the long run, the lack of formal education will only push more people into poverty.
The Diocese of Mambfe, in the English-speaking region, has now set up a one-year peace education program as part of its work with young people, with the support of $20,200 from our generous benefactors. The goal of the program was to foster a culture of non-violence and peace, as violence spread to all levels of society – even within families themselves.
“We must never forget that in an environment marked by violence and conflict, any form of effective evangelization is impossible,” says Father Roland Arrey, parish priest and head of the youth outreach team. “Differences of opinion may be inevitable, but violence is not inevitable. If we want to avoid a relentless spiral of violence, we must strive to promote peace and tolerance and not incite hatred and mistrust,” he added.
For the past year, young people from the 27 parishes of the diocese have been meeting once a month for a weekend of formation which also includes community services and shared times of prayer. These courses are further complemented by radio broadcasts that can reach even the most remote villages.
“Our program is centered on Christ, the Prince of Peace, who yearns to bring peace to our troubled and violence-torn world,” says Father Arrey. “We are very enthusiastic about this project and very motivated by it, because it will benefit especially young people, but at the same time all our parish communities as well.
“We are very grateful to ACN and all of our benefactors!
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