What’s going on?
Currently, there is tension between the Anglophones (English speakers) and the French-speaking government. In order to understand this tension, we first need to familiarize ourselves with the history of Cameroon.
History of Cameroon
In 1472, Cameroon was founded by a Portuguese navigator named Fernando Po. Then, in 1884, Germany colonized Cameroon. The colonial administration encouraged the use of German seeing that the people were divided due to their 247 indigenous languages. However, the American missionaries preferred that the indigenous languages be used and since they were the ones managing the schools, it was the indigenous languages that remained and German never caught on.
In 1916, Germany was defeated in WWI and Cameroon was divided between Britain and France. The goals of each nation were very different. The British governed through the indigenous authorities and “allowed education in their colonies to be the responsibility of private and religious organizations.” The French, on the other hand, wanted to make Cameroonians into Frenchmen mainly through their governance of the school system, a decision which did not please local missionaries. “The language situation in French-speaking Cameroon during the colonial period was characterized by perpetual language conflict between missionaries, who persisted in the use of indigenous languages, and the French colonial administration.” This conflict continued to the point that in 1922, 1800 schools ran by American Presbyterian missionaries were closed down and from then on French was the sole language used in education.
In 1958, Ahmadou Ahidjo formed a political party and called for independence from the colonists as well as unification of the British and French colonies. Then in 1960, he proclaimed independence from French Cameroon and declared the Republic of Cameroon independent. He was inaugurated as president and started to reunite the Republic of Cameroon with the British colony. In 1961, British Cameroon voted to join the Republic of Cameroon, with support from the UN becoming The Federal Republic of Cameroon. Then, for the next two years there were frequent riots which were put down by French forces. This new republic was declared to be a bilingual nation. Although English and French were now “official”, most of the 247 indigenous languages remained people’s mother tongue thereby leaving them unable to contribute to the democracy of Cameroon.
In 2001, there was tension between the president’s government and the country’s English-speakers. The political unrest resulted in several arrests and three deaths.
The Current Situation
Around January 2017, tensions begin to boil over again after the arrest of several Cameroonian activists. This resulted in a flurry of social media posts decrying these arrests as injustice. The Anglophones continued an ongoing complaint that they are being discriminated against in Cameroon, especially as it relates to jobs and government positions. These complaints resulted in the termination of access to the internet for the anglophone regions. These regions have been in turmoil ever since, with demonstrations, marches, and what is called "ghost towns", in which supporters of the protesters remain at home in peaceful resistance. While this type of peaceful protest might seem ideal, it is often enforced by violence. And keeping the family at home means that children are not going to school. As this has been an enduring problem, many children have spent little time in school since January.
While "ghost towns" have been a popular response, there have continued to be protests and marches, leading the governor of the NW region to declare a state of emergency. October 1, 2017 was being reported to be a day of mass protest, and potential violence.
As far as we can tell the "mass" protests that were expected did not materialize.
This is probably due to a major military presence in the anglophone regions on that date. But no doubt it is also due to the fact that you all have been praying. This does not mean that there were no protests or violence, though. Amnesty International has estimated that 15 people died in clashes between the protesters and the security forces. And what is absolutely certain is that, though October 1st did not show itself to be a day of mass protest, the issues have not been resolved.
I do not have enough first-hand information to take any kind of definitive stand on the current political issues in Cameroon, but I trust that the Lord knows those who are guilty and those who are innocent on both sides. I also am filled with hope that the Lord will work through situation for the good of the church and for expansion of his Kingdom in Cameroon if we will ask him to. And so, instead of sorting out which side is right and which side is wrong, I present several specific ways that we can pray for the nation of Cameroon during this time:
Pray for the Church
Although there is still a lot of Gospel work to be done, there is definitely a strong church presence in the English speaking regions of Cameroon. And so, I ask that we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ during this time of trial. Pray for Christians to be lovers of peace, to love their enemies and pray for them, pray for pulpits to be flooded with the Word of God and not the political opinions of pastors, pray that the Church would yearn for the New Earth where Jesus will rule in complete righteousness, pray that this would pry the hands of the local church from holding on tightly to this world’s order, pray for God to provide for physical and economic needs and for schools to be reopened. Pray that Christians would be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish” (Phil 2.15). Pray that she would seek God for wisdom in how to take political action while still honoring those that govern.
Pray for Theology
I recently attended the Evangelical Missiological Society conference and in seminar after seminar, there was one consistent thread: that Africans need to write a theology for Africans. There are issues in Africa that we do not deal with in America and vise-versa. There needs to be discussion about the God-given responsibilities of civil servants, the responsibilities of the citizens of a nation, if violence is ever necessary in these situations, and how the church can be salt and light during political unrest. There needs to be writings on issues like ancestor veneration, polygamy, prosperity theology – the already but not yet of health and wealth, and the obligations that one has to one’s family, both those who have died and those who are living. Maybe today is the day for Christians to return to the Scriptures, for counsels to happen, and theologies to be formed. Let us pray to that end.
Pray for Peace and Reasonableness
‘The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason,full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.’ - James 3:17
Pray that, by God’s grace, there would be heavenly wisdom on the streets of Cameroon that is peaceable, gentle, open to reason, impartial and sincere. Pray that the governing authorities would genuinely be impartial and sincere and pray that animosity and tension would be triumphed by love.
Pray for Expansion
This could also be a time of expansion where the Cameroonian church seeks to build Christ’s kingdom by reaching out to neighboring unreached people groups. I do not know how political unrest could lead to unreached people groups hearing of Christ and receiving the Word of God in their language, but I do believe in a God of miracles. Let us pray that in 20 years we could read in Cameroon’s history that the Lord took this time of political unrest and used it, in some mysterious way, for the advancement of his kingdom.
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
Much of the information was pulled from the following: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13148483.