By Markus Gamache
I was privileged to travel to visit a Christian and Muslim refugee camp in Cameroon. The president of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) Joel S. Billi, the general secretary, administrative secretary, EYN spiritual adviser, and and six others including myself traveled to Minawawuoa in Maruoa Province, Cameroon, to visit a refugee camp on March 11.
This camp was established on July 2, 2013, by Ali Shouek with 851 people from Gwoza Local Government Area in eastern Nigeria, mostly Christians. After two months the United Nations Committee on Human Rights Commission (UNCHRC) took over. The refugee camp is now under the control of UNCHRC through the government of Cameroon.
The refugee camp is a world of its own. There is no end to the camp, to human eyes. It is very large and over populated. The current population is about 32,948 Christians, and a total estimated number of Muslims of about 15,000. Out of this number, our church has up to 16,728 members. Up to 13 places of worship belonging to EYN are within the refugee camp. The camp has different church bodies as well, and they all have their places of worship. There is a mosque for the Muslims also.
They are facing some challenges, as are other camps. There is the issue of rape against women. The women are facing high rates of rape whenever they go out to the bush to fetch firewood. Some youth have been killed by Cameroon’s indigenous people. There are signs of hunger. Feeding is becoming a problem after having large numbers of people for years. Medical care, not enough toilet facilities, and water for domestic use is more critical. There is no place for farming, and no other thing to do. More immorality and crime among the refugees themselves are on the increase.
But, generally, I sincerely appreciate the effort of the people handling the refugees. They are sincerely doing all their best to satisfy them, but the number is big.
It is the refugees’ prayer that the Nigerian government, churches, mosques, and other related bodies reduce the population of the camp by taking them back to Nigeria. Widows, orphans, and those who are disabled or wounded by guns are ready to come back now for safety and proper feeding. The biggest challenge is that they are mostly from Gwoza, with only a few from Madagali, and these are places where it is not safe to return.
Our interfaith effort and the church need to talk more about how to address the issue. It is very clear that to start this process is a big task, but we will try and see the road ahead.
-- Markus Gamache is the staff liaison for Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).