C ameroon, formed of an amalgam of former French and British colonies, has a Christian population of around 70% with Muslims comprising 20%. Despite political tensions between the northern Francophone region and the smaller Anglophone region in the south-west, Cameroon has enjoyed relative stability since gaining independence in 1960.
Conflict between religious groups is rare. However, in the Far North, where the Muslim population is dominant, rural Christian communities are routinely subjected to Boko Haram violence. Attacks by the Nigerian Islamist group have increased in recent years, with gangs of up to 300 militants laying waste to Christian villages, devastating crops and killing livestock.
Eyewitness accounts of attacks describe heavily armed militants encircling Christian villages, shouting throughout the night as they kill, loot and burn. A local pastor said, “These attacks lead to great fear, psychosis, trauma and panic.”
In the last two months of 2019, at least ten Christians were murdered in a wave of Boko Haram attacks in the Far North. Seven were killed in Mayo Sava district. In Tourou, a 12-year-old Christian schoolboy was hacked to death when he resisted militants’ attempt to abduct him as a “child soldier”. In Moskota, church-founding Pastor David Mokoni and a hearing-impaired boy were killed in an attack on their church.Boko Haram tend to murderously target men because they are usually the main breadwinners and protectors in communities.
The UN estimates that more than 170,000 Cameroonians, mainly Christians, have been forced to flee their homes. Others “hide out” in the hills, or travel to a town, for safety at night rather than stay in their beds.
Throughout the rainy season in 2019, communities were unable to farm because of relentless Boko Haram violence. A local pastor told Barnabas, “The lack of a harvest will cause long-term hardship for our Christian brothers and sisters.”