A week after defense forces were accused of killing at least 32 people, including a pregnant woman and 14 children, in Cameroon’s civil war-ridden English-speaking region, a Presbyterian church was burned to ashes.
“We outrightly condemn the killing of children, women and the entire household in Ngarbuh – Ntumbaw. We equally denounce the ungodly act of burning a PCC house of worship at Mbufung – Bali,” the Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, said in a statement, according to Cameroon-Info.Net.
A video of some church ministers weeping at the scene of the incident went viral in the country. The arson attack took place Monday.
The website pointed to the role of Cameroon’s Defense and Security Forces behind the latest attack, saying that security forces have been battling rebel groups that are seeking independence of the country’s northwestern and southwestern parts, also known as the Anglophone region, to create a news country, Ambazonia. French is spoken in other parts of the country.
“Once more, it has proven to us that military might or violence is not the solution to this problem,” Samuel Forba, who is also president of the Council of Protestant Churches in Cameroon, said in the statement. “An insincere route to peace, half measures, lack of goodwill, a general insensitivity to the pain of God’s people, the hate speech and violence perpetrated by armed separatists, extremely poor governance and selfish politics continues to fuel this crisis.”
The church representative called for “external mediators.” “We have failed as a people to protect God’s children. Surely God is vexed and we must repent as a nation.”
Armed separatist groups emerged in 2017 after the government cracked down on protests. Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has called the groups “terrorists.”
More than 3,000 people have died and at least 70,000 people have been displaced due to the conflict, in which both the military and the opposition have been accused of violating the rights of civilians.
In the last week’s attack, several victims were burned alive.
“The military officers responsible for these heinous crimes must be brought to justice,” human rights lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho told CNN at the time.
Rignyu Solange, a resident of Ntumbo, told CNN that nine members of her family were killed when security forces searching for separatists burned many houses in his village. “My sister and her family were killed in their sleep as the military torched houses because they suspected that separatist fighters were hiding in the village. I want the perpetrators of this act to be severely punished.”
Efi Tembon, a ministry leader who fled Cameroon in 2018 after he spoke to the U.S. Congress about rights violations committed by the Cameroonian military, also called for the military to be held accountable in a Facebook post.
A military court in Cameroon is hearing a case against seven soldiers accused of killing women and children in a raid against insurgents from the Boko Haram terror group.
Cameroon was added to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of countries where Christian persecution is most severe in 2020. In 2019, two Bible translators were killed in their homes during overnight attacks on separatist-supporting communities.
Last November, President Trump stripped Cameroon of its trade benefits over accusations that the military has committed human rights abuses against civilians.