Cameroon (MNN) — Cameroon is embroiled in what could be the precursor to a civil war. The nation is currently divided into two basic populations: the French-speaking majority and the English-speaking minority to the southwest who want to break off as their own nation — Ambazonia.
Those in the Anglophone region feel underrepresented by Cameroon’s government. Two years ago, they decided enough is enough. As English-speakers in southwest Cameroon clamor for autonomy, the French-speaking state military is clamping down.
We spoke with Efi Tembon, the Executive Director of the Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy, a partner of Wycliffe Associates. He says, “It’s actually like a genocide where the war is going on in one part of the country, in the English-speaking part of the country. The military has been deployed in that part of the country and they are causing horrible atrocities.”
“There are over 30,000 refugees who have fled into Nigeria and over 200,000 people have been displaced. Many of these people are hiding in the bushes — some of them elderly people, expectant mothers, mothers with young babies, and children without any care, without any food, without medicine, [and] without protection.”
State forces are going into villages in southwest Cameroon, burning homes, and shooting civilians.
The violence has become a vicious cycle.
“The people decided to fight back, so they have young people who get together and form their own groups in communities to defend their communities. So they ambush soldiers, they take weapons from soldiers and when weapons are taken or a soldier is killed, then the military goes out into the community and burns the [homes] and kills more people.”
A paranoid military means it’s not even safe to ride a motorbike in Anglophone communities.
“Motorbikes have been burned in the area and many people have been shot because they were riding on motorbikes. Sometimes the people who attack soldiers also have motorbikes. They will attack the soldiers, ambush them, and take their weapons to fight back. So the government decided to ban motorbikes in some of the areas.”
Because of the travel dangers, including on motorbikes, CABTAL staff have a hard time getting around. But sometimes more dangerous than traveling is the danger of staying. Some translators have left their communities. Tembon says the president of a translation program had to flee the area when soldiers took over his church. Later he found out his entire village was burned.
This outbreak of violence in Cameroon has affected more than a dozen Bible translation projects.
“We have about 13 language projects in the area where this core of violence is taking place,” says Tembon. “Even some translators have died. The husband of one of our translators was shot and killed and we had to go rescue them in the forest. They were hiding in the bushes for weeks with babies and even older people. Whole families were hiding in the bushes, so we’ve taken them out into the regional training center where translation will be taking place now to help them. But even that center is not safe because it is at the heart of the crisis.”
Wycliffe Associates is hoping to raise funds to build a wall around the regional training center compound and make it safer. Also, computers and translation materials have been lost in the chaos. The ministry is trying to recover or replace those items as well. Currently, they are trying to raise $170,000.
Tembon assures, “In the midst of all of the violence, our teams are still working. God’s Word is still spreading. They are still reaching out to people.”
One thing CABTAL is doing to respond to the fighting is provide a trauma healing workshop for Christian leaders to be the healing hand of Christ in Cameroon.
“It’s a trauma healing workshop where we train people who can reach out to those who are suffering from the trauma. So we have launched out this workshop to train pastors and other leaders so they can help all these people scattered in the bushes to heal from this trauma of the war and the killing going on.”
Please pray for Bible translators in Cameroon to be spiritually encouraged as they find safety and continue Bible translation work. Ask God to bring peace to Cameroon and that the people would find true freedom in Christ.