A member of the Missio team visited Cameroon last year. After visiting some projects supported by Missio, she asks Missio supporters to bring hope in a bleak landscape.
Fr Placide MHM had arranged to take us to his parish in the outskirts of Douala to meet Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Getting to the neighbourhood was only possible in a 4 wheel drive vehicle bumping along muddy, creviced, almost non-existent roads.
The homes in his parish are cobbled together from pieces of sheet metal and cement blocks. Inside they’re dark and cramped; families crowd into tiny rooms and cook over open fires outside. No running water, no electricity.
And children everywhere! Wearing clothes too big or too small, some wearing only at-shirt, many in well-worn flip flops. Some of the older ones were carrying plastic vessels to collect water, some young people were carrying younger people on their hips.
The young girls crowded around me. One explained proudly she loved to sing at Church on a Sunday. I said I did too and several children began singing. Their voices were a stark contrast to their parents, who told me in hushed tones that they could not afford to send their children to school. They had travelled from a village where the military had burnt their homes and all their belongings. They were grateful to be alive but were struggling to find work to pay rent.
‘500 families a week’
The next day we made our way to the Holy Trinity Church in Limbe – one of the first Mill Hill parishes in this area. Fr Frank explained that due to the ongoing tensions, ‘We are receiving many families affected by the conflict, around 500 families per week. Many are not Catholic, but they all need help.’ So parishioners contributed whatever they could – clothes, shoes, canned goods – to distribute to the families.
Temporary shelters, called buckaroos have also been constructed on the parish grounds, to help with the urgent need.
The Holy Trinity Church wasn’t the only congregation collecting items for IDPs. The local community invited IDP families in Bamenda to share a meal in the parish grounds of St John the Baptist Church. One of the local lay women, Margaret, told us the families were ‘offered clothing and shoes after lunch.’
When we asked about the current situation, she said: ‘Locals have been running from tear gas and shootings recently. Many people are giving up. They think God doesn’t hear us. But many of us continue to trust in God – we cry to him in our pain.’
Many people are giving up. They think God doesn’t hear us. But many of us continue to trust in God – we cry to him in our pain.
A constant fear
After Mass, Margaret had been on the phone to her family.We had heard gun shots as we leftthe Church and this had sparked franticphone calls. Margaret’s grandchildren wereasking whether they should go to school. She explained: ‘The biggest issue is tuition for our children; some have not gone to school for two years.
Children are no longer wearing uniforms or carrying school bags. They opt for plain clothes and carry their belongings in plastic bags, so they’re not identified as‘school children’ by the military or the Amba Boys. People are in fear. Even the little children – when you ask them why they aren’t in school, they respond ‘I’ll be shot.’
Help us to help
The situation in Cameroon is very bleak. But Missio and the Mill Hill missionaries are doing everything we can to bring hope and help to people who are frightened, homeless and in desperate need. If you can, please help us by:
- Donating to Missio, so that we can help wherever the need is greatest
- Praying with Missio, that God’s light will shine with hope and peace in a time of darkness and fear.