Boko Haram struck after dark, forming a circle around the village. The gunmen howled and chanted through the night, while some swept through the community breaking into homes – killing, looting, and burning as they went. This was how an eyewitness described one of several terrifying attacks, by gangs of up to 300 Islamist extremists, as they targeted five rural Christian communities in Far North Cameroon in early January, 2020.
“We don’t know what to do. Pray for those who lost their beloved. Pray also for little children left without even clothes,” pleaded Pastor James when he contacted Barnabas.
“Throughout the night I was thinking about the wives and children of those who were killed and how they will start life hopeless, empty-handed, so these families need serious prayer and help,” he said.
Pressure on Christians “beyond persecution”
Another Cameroonian pastor described the plight of Christians in the rural Far North as an extreme situation “beyond persecution” that is plunging thousands of Christian families into an humanitarian crisis.
Boko Haram began stepping up its attacks on isolated Christian villages in Far North Cameroon in early 2019, in its effort to establish an Islamic caliphate stretching from its base in north-eastern Nigeria across northern Cameroon and other countries of West Africa. The rampaging jihadists have reduced scores of villages to smouldering ruins, looted homes, plundered food stores, stolen livestock and devastated crops. The Cameroonian military are struggling to combat them.
The UN estimates that more than 170,000 people, mostly Christians, have fled the violence. Many now “hide out” in the mountains and bush, or travel to a town for safety rather than risk a night in their own beds.
“The people had only their eyes to cry”
“These attacks led to great fear, psychosis, trauma and panic,” said a local pastor describing the distressed psychological state of survivors. Another contact described how after three died in an attack on Zangola village, “the people had only their eyes to cry.”
Children captured and forced to fight
Boko Haram often murderously target men, leaving families without a provider or protector. They also abduct boys and force them to become “child soldiers”. A 12-year-old boy was brutally hacked to death in Tourou district in November 2019, when he resisted the militants’ attempts to capture him.
In a raid on Mbreche village in December, the extremists kidnapped 21 young people – nine girls and twelve boys. Four others, including a girl aged 13, managed to escape.
A harvestless year ahead
A desperate struggle still lies ahead for surviving families. Last year, throughout the rainy season, people could not farm because of the attacks. “The lack of a harvest will cause long-term hardship for our Christian brothers and sisters in this forgotten part of the world,” said Pastor James.
Our practical help lets our brothers and sisters know they are not forgotten by their Christian family
Ngaldiyé, a widow displaced by the violence and amazed to receive aid from Barnabas, prayed in gratitude, “God, you who do not give up on your children, here I am rescued by people whom I have never known even for one day.”
Barnabas Fund has sent food, blankets, sleeping mats and essential hygiene items to help thousands of Cameroonian Christians who lost everything, except the clothes they were wearing, when the militants attacked.