Speaking during a program on Cameroonian state television, Cardinal Christian Tumi also called on Christians to become more involved in politics.
“Every Christian is a rebel against all that is not good-that is morally evil. A Christian is a rebel against lies,” Tumi said.
“We are therefore called to evangelize the politicians and politics, because their activity also is preparing them for the kingdom of God. There is no activity that is out of the region of the church,” Tumi continued.
The program brought together Christian leaders from different denominations to discuss relations between Church and State in the West African country, which is currently experiencing a number of crises, including a rebellion in the country’s two English-speaking provinces. Cameroon is 80 percent French-speaking, and the Anglophone minority has long complained about discrimination and marginalization by the Francophone majority.
Around 70 percent of the country’s population is Christian, almost evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants.
During the program, the President of the Cameroon Baptist Convention, Reverend Godwill Ncham, said he believed in the separation of Church and State, but insisted it doesn’t mean that “the Church or Christians cannot be involved in politics.”
“It is intended to create boundaries so that as a Christian when you get involved in politics, you don’t turn the political platform into a Church,” the Baptist minister said.
“So I believe the dichotomy of Christians not involved in politics is not true to scripture, because the Christian life calls the Christian to engage all of life. There is also the false dichotomy of circular and sacred. I am first a Christian before a pastor; and my Christian life calls me to engage the traditional sinful background from which I come unto transformation, and I am supposed to engage others and bring them to transformation as well .So to say that a Christian should not be involved in politics because he would dirty himself is inadequate. A Christian should be involved in politics in order to clean up the politics,” Ncham continued.
Tumi even said that if had not become a Catholic priest, he would have become a politician.
Tumi criticized politicians for telling lies and making promises they never intend to keep, and said Christian politicians should be able to inject truth into politics.
“The Truth is the agreement between what I am saying and what I am thinking. If what I am thinking contradicts what I am saying, I am telling a lie. And we pastors have been called and sent by God to promote the truth. Christ is the truth. ‘I am the Truth, I am the light, I am the way,’ says Christ. The truth is objective. If it is not objective, it’s not true,” he explained.
Tumi said the Christian’s mission should also be to sanitize politics, because “Christ came to save the sinner, not the saint. “So where sin abounds, the Grace of God also abounds. So therefore, wherever a human being is found-be he or she good or bad, we have to be there to try to bring the lost child back to the fold,” he said.
The Christian leaders were unanimous that the state was “at war” against the Church.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rt. Rev. Samuel Fonki Forba, accused the government of undermining religious studies.
“Religious studies in our schools should not be mocked and treated as a side issue,” he said.
“What is happening in our country is because the morals of our society have gone down the drain, and we must do something to keep those morals. When things are bad, that’s when they (political leaders) call on religious leaders to come and have an ecumenical prayer session for the nation,” Forba continued.
“When things are moving the way they want them to move, the Church is not recognized. And so we are saying that we have a lot to offer; to partner with the state of Cameroon to change the present dispensation. They must recognize the role of the Church in all of this,” he said.
Tumi was even more harsh in his criticism of the government, reprimanding the state for excluding religious studies in competitive examinations for professional schools.
“It’s a fight against us. It’s a fight by the government against us,” the cardinal said.
“You are telling the children that religion is not so important, and it betrays your ignorance. The highest university in England is Oxford University and the highest degree you get in Oxford University is DD – Doctor of Divinity, and that’s religion,” he said.
The animosity of the Cameroonian government against the Church reached a head in 2017 when the Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda, his auxiliary Bishop Michael Bibi, Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo, two priests – Fathers Michael Kintang and William Neba – and ministers from other denominations were dragged to court for statements made in connection with the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions.
Ncham said such extreme measures by the state are to be expected.
“The Church being taken to court is expected, because if you look at the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who thirst after righteousness’; and he says those who are peacemakers and who thirst after righteousness will be persecuted. So we consider the being taken to court as being part of the persecution of the Church trying to fill its role in the community,” the Baptist minister said.
“And it shouldn’t hurt us to produce wounds that will not heal, it should fortify us to be resilient to continue to play our role in the community.”