Catholic News Agency | Gunmen set a Catholic church on fire and kidnapped five priests, one religious sister and two lay people in western Cameroon, where a civil war has been raging since 2017.
The Catholic bishops of the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province released a statement following the September 16 attack on St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Nchang, Mamfe Diocese.
“It was with great shock and utter horror that we, the Bishops (of the BAPEC) learned of the burning down of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Nchang… and the kidnapping of five priests, one religious sister and two lay faithful by unknown gunmen,” the statement said.
The bishops said they “strongly condemn all these attacks against the Church and her Ministers and we appeal to those who have taken the priests, the nun and the Christians in Nchang to release them without further delay.”
“We insist on this because this act has now crossed the red line and we must say that ‘enough is enough,'” read the statement.
Cameroon has been embroiled in a civil war known as the “Anglophone Crisis” in which armed separatists from the Anglophone regions of the country in the Northwest and Southwest have taken part in an uprising against government forces. Both sides have been accused of atrocities, including the murder and torture of civilians.
The conflict has killed thousands and displaced as many as 500,000 since 2014.
On September 6 suspected militant separatists opened fire on a bus in Muyuka, killing at least six civilians.
In their statement, the bishops said that the Catholic church has increasingly been targeted by attackers.
“A wave of persecutions against the hierarchy of the Church is now the new game of the “Struggle,” and all kinds of threat messages are sent out against missionaries who have surrendered their lives to work for the people,” read the bishops’ statement which noted that Presbyterian and Baptist churches have also been targeted.
About two-thirds of Cameroonians practice Christianity, while 25-30% are Muslim.