Read in all churches on New Year as message of the Moderator to Christians. Rt Rev Dr Fonki Samuel:
Presbyterian Church in Cameroon
Dear brothers and Sisters in the Lord.
Pastoral Letter: Our God is a God of History
We bring you fraternal greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords. We join you to thank God for the blessings and graces of 2016, the year of our Lord. The year 2016 was a challenging one for us as a church and as a nation amidst collective and personal successes on the field of evangelization and our drive towards transformation on the one hand; And on the other hand, we all were affected by the Esseka train accident and towards the end of the year, there were upheavals in the major towns of the Northwest and Southwest Regions of our country – mainly the English-speaking part of our country. In all these challenges, the God whom we serve showed himself as our refuge, stronghold and comfort in times of trouble. When such calamities happen, we should not lose faith because Jesus Christ himself warns us that, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Increasingly, we cannot trust the systems of this world for peace, that is why Christ said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
We look forward to the year 2017 with great expectations for what we want to achieve as a church. We are also looking up to our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ as a people and as a faith community. Yet our anxieties and uncertainties on some of the things happening around us continue to be of great concern. We hear news of civil strife, we are not certain how the school year will commence, and we do not know how a breakthrough will come in a deadlock pitting the government of Cameroon and the Teachers’ Trade Union and the Common-Law Lawyers. We are not sure whether many Cameroonians may be able to afford food, medicines and basic utilities. This is the reason why as a church we must pray and lend ourselves to the service of God and our nation, to pray for peace but also to take our responsibilities in peace building.
Let me share our thoughts on the common issue plaguing our country today. We are referring to what has been called the marginalization of Anglophone. In the last few months our country has witnessed upheavals in some towns and cities in the English-speaking parts of Cameroon creating a situation of mutual suspicion between the leaders of Teachers’ Trade Unions and the government of Cameroon, each side portraying their own version that further deepen wounds and heighten the elements of suspicion and mistrust. This kind of situation may lead our leaders into the temptation of the insistence of an uneasy co-existence, secession, federalism and the much talked about decentralization. One thing is clear; the God we serve is the God of our history. None of us can explain how they came to be born in Cameroon; none of us know why God permitted the Germans to be defeated during the 1st World War. None of us know why God permitted the French and the English mandate to dominate Cameroon after the Versailles treaty. None of us know why God permitted a small section of our country to be called Southern Cameroons. Only God knows why the things that are, came into being.
Therefore, in times like this, we should repent from relying on our human wisdom on issues that have a bearing in God’s genuine plan for Cameroonians and for mankind as a whole. One thing which is clear is that God remains the Lord of our history and calls us to repentance so that our country can experience the reason why He made us Cameroonians. Those who insist on the uneasy coexistence should be able to answer how can there be co-existence without mutuality and trust? Those who call for federalism must also be reminded that even in the new fragments of the federation, there would be minority problems. Those who call for secession must be reminded historically that there cannot be any secession without bloodshed like the cases of Yugoslavia, South Sudan, and Eritrea to mention a few. Those who call for decentralization must answer why for all this while the so-called devolution of competences to local councils have dragged on or why should institutions in one council pay their taxes to another council area. So, you see, the problem of Cameroon has been one of peace without justice and Justice without truth. This is the time for truth.
Our today just like our tomorrow remains in God’s hands. We cannot craft out a future outside of God’s plan for our lives, we cannot build tomorrow by our own might and neither can we redeem our history by our own strength. So the question is what is God’s plan for Cameroon at this juncture? In times like this when our history challenges us and our people cry out for justice, no weapon or might can stop the restlessness of a people who cry out to God in distress seeking rescue. Rather, we all must come together like a family to pray together and seek God’s face so that our country should not degenerate into despair. So we call on all Cameroonians to turn to God – Cameroon, keep God at the center of your politics, keep God at the center of your thinking, keep God at the center of your actions and it will surprise you what the Lord God Almighty will do for you.
The cultural heritage of English speaking Cameroon and its bearing on their professional and socio-economic life is a fact of history that no amount of political gymnastics can erase or hide. Nonetheless, we also recognize the strength of our unity and no parochial political interests should be allowed to destroy a people with a long geographical, political and cultural ancestry. We should seek God’s favor as we look forward to 2017, we should attempt great things for God and we must be determined to cultivate peace so that the children of God can rise up and claim their inheritance in true brotherly love.
Some people are confused on our stance on this issue. But as you all know, the church is not the Moderator, the PCC is her Christians and the specialized committees that have been formed to govern the church. We can only say what the respective bodies of the church ask us to say. Therefore, do not confuse the prophetic expressions of some pastors on the field. It represents their individual emotions and understandings of the things that are happening; some of those expressions genuine or not genuine do not represent the official opinions of the church. The role of the Presbyterian Education Teachers Trade Union (PEATTU) is independent, as a trade union they reserve the right to join other trade unions to militate on issues affecting their sector.
The Synod of Unfailing Love meeting in Bamenda from the 20th – 21st of November 2016 addressed a message to the Head of State of the Republic of Cameroon, amongst other things calling for urgent dialogue between the government of Cameroon, Teachers’ Trade Unions and Common Law Lawyers. After the sad incident of violence that happened in Bamenda on the 8th of December 2016 will reiterate emphatically our stance as a church.
We recognize the efforts of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Cameroon in creating ad hoc committees to see into the issues tabled by Teachers Trade Union and Common Law Lawyers. While this is a starting point, may all the preliminary objections be cleared comprehensively in order for these committees to function fully? Those who are called to these committees must show a high sense of patriotism, truth and humaneness. We call for dialogue, peace and understanding so that we can identify the points of weaknesses, the areas of our common strength and how we can rekindle a spirit of trust, a spirit of tolerance and a spirit of love.
We condemn acts of violence perpetuated by forces of law and order and some civil authorities. Such acts should be investigated and those officers brought to book. In the same light, anyone who is in detention should be proven guilty of violence before detention; otherwise it is unlawful to keep people behind bars for an indeterminate period of time.
All proposals for reconciliation should have both short and long term considerations. The government of Cameroon, the Teachers’ Trade Unions and Common Law Lawyers should do everything possible to see into the commencement of schools and private practice of the Common-Law Lawyers. We volunteer our services and our facilities as a church that will lead to genuine reconciliation and long lasting peace; hoping that this will contribute to the healing of our Land.
Our times are not in our hands but in God’s hands for He is the Lord of our history, He is the author of our lives, He is the beginning and the end, the pioneer and perfecta of our faith. We call on Cameroon and Cameroonians to pray fervently and to call upon God to direct our minds to be our Light as we grapple with the dark edges of our political history.
Finally, we anticipate that 2017 shall be hopeful and more rewarding. We look forward to ensure sustainability of our Mission fields and business operations, we anticipate commitment of our staff especially those in the health and educational departments so that they as co-creators in God’s vineyard will be able to touch lives in a positive way and further the kingdom of God here on earth. We trust that the spiritual lives of our Christians will experience a surge in 2017 and that we would be able to win more souls for Christ Jesus. We enjoin Christians to remain peaceful and hopeful in the expression of their faith so that together we may be able to do great things for God in 2017.
May God in His infinite mercy redeem our land and accompany each and every one of us safely on to the shores of 2017.
Yours for the Sake of the Faith
Rt. Rev. Fonki Samuel Forba