By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 September, 2014
In his address to the Bishops of Cameroon at the conclusion of their Ad Limina pilgrimage to the Holy See, the Pontiff spoke about the importance of inter-religious dialogue.
Referring to the significant presence of Muslims in some dioceses in Cameroon, the Pope said there was an urgent need to develop a dialogue of life with Muslims in a spirit of mutual trust to maintain a climate of peaceful coexistence, and discourage the development of violence of which Christians are the victims in some parts of the continent.
Cameroon in west central Africa and is home to an estimated 4.25 million Catholics, who comprise 26% of the population across 24 dioceses.
The country shares a border with Nigeria to the West and Chad and the Central African Republic to the east – a region that is experiencing increasing insecurity because of the Boko Haram Islamist threat.
Just this week, Cameroon’s army said that militants crossed into Cameroonian territory but pushed back after a three-hour battle. The incursion followed Boko Haram’s capture of the border town Banki which prompted the flight of tens of thousands of residents.
In his speech the Pope addressed other areas, such as relations with the State and the contribution of the Church to society in Cameroon, chiefly in the fields of healthcare, education and caring for the poor and destitute.
He also addressed the issue of lay formation particularly where relativism and secularisation are beginning to take root in Africa – and of evangelisation.
Pope Francis said that the most effective form of evangelisation is the credible witness to Gospel values of those who have received and profess the Gospel. Christians, he said, are called to show those who have yet to encounter Christ how the power of His love can transform and illuminate our lives.
To this ends, the Pope also asked church leaders to remain vigilant against the mismanagement of Church resources by clergy which he said would be “particularly shocking in a region where many people lack basic necessities”.
He also urged particular attention for the pastoral care of families “especially today as they experience grave hardships – be they poverty, displacement of peoples, lack of security, the temptation to return to ancestral practices incompatible with the Christian faith, or even new lifestyles proposed by a secularised world”.
Separately, the president of the Nigerian bishops’ conference reported that Islamist Boko Haram militants had attacked a seminary and convent in the Diocese of Maiduguri.
In an interview with Zenit, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos warned that if the roots of “religious terrorism” are not tackled it “will continue to spread not only beyond Nigeria to other parts of Africa, but indeed it will engulf the international community.”
He also called on the Nigerian government to improve its intelligence gathering, and for “good Christians and good Muslims” to continue their efforts in dialogue to “enhance trust and harmony among all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion.”