Courage, the willingness to die in service of the truth, is indeed the
by Rev. Fr. Gerald Jumbam, Rome, THURSDAY,
29 JUNE 2017.
Plaudits for an Open Letter that almost broke my Back
I must say that the positive feedback I have received for my recent write-ups have surprised my highest hopes.
The glory can only be given to God. When writing especially the Open Letter to the President of the National Episcopal Conference of 2Cameroon, I had no intention whatsoever of seeking for any notoriety or fame.
It came out from frustrating circumstances about my life and the life of millions of Southern Cameroonians who have lost their loved ones,whose brothers and sisters have been forced to exile and whose brothers and sisters are languishing in appalling situations in prison cells in Yaoundé and elsewhere as a result of the crisis bedeviling us these days. I have had threats from church hierarchy in Cameroon and from agents of the State as a result. Seeing that a man of conscience should not die with his mouth closed, because that would be tantamount to hiding from future prelates and clergy where the
dangers of their vocation lie, I have boldly decided to break the silence and to defy those authorities who have connived with evil by trying to frighten people with death, forgetting that death is the end of all human beings.
I wrote the Open Letter from the platform of a priest of Kumbo – one of the dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Province that Archbishop Kleda had been snared by the Yaoundé political cabal to undertake so unpopular a
trip.That is why I addressed the letter from the secretariat of the diocese I am married to as an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church.
It was a serious letter I could only address from a posture on bed with my spouse (the local church of the diocese of Kumbo). I addressed it from that platform because I am proud of my matrimony with that diocese.To some people who out of their blind obedience to anything Church (and which I have no problem with such obedience from such faithful)
take myopen letter amiss and therefore hold that I disrespected the office of an Archbishop, I like to say they have completely misfired. My intention was superior to just disrespecting an office. There are many
influences that brought me to the writing of the letter which still strengthen my conviction that that letter was the right thing to do in a time of such great moral crisis. The influence of the psychological trauma and emotional anguish I encountered in 1997-1998 when I was in high school when my father went on forced exile because of this very
plight of the Southern Cameroons we are suffering today.
My family and I suffered terribly at that young age of my life. I was deprived of a father at that delicate age and up till today the emotional effects of that deprivation are still felt. Then again, another trauma came when news came to me overseas that my father was forcefully taken from the church premises of his locality to the military concentration camp far away at Bamenda and there were slim hopes of him coming back to us in the family. This disturbed my whole studies that last year. Lately, my
family has gone through a self-exile ordeal during some months of these few months of our people‟s crisis. These painful situations -among other grave influences below – provoked the letter I wrote to the Archbishop.
Moreover, who can explain to me that after university students are brutally beaten, some raped and others carted away to detention
camps, and hundreds of other citizens in other major towns of our Church province abducted to Yaoundé for flimsy reasons, the President of the National Episcopal Conference (a Bishop for that matter) would not address such an issue with the Government first. He would rather travel to the victimized people to attempt to verbally force the parents of the children to call off the peaceful protest of stopping schools and civil disobedience that the people have put on to put pressure on this Government to release their abused and abducted sons and daughters from despicable prison centers. I felt that the Archbishop was completely insensitive to the plight of the suffering people of my Church Province. He needed a response from the bitterness that welled up in me as a result of my frustrations about what my father and other victims went through in such prison cells last year. I raised a vociferous alarm with my pen for the thousands victimized in Southern Cameroons and I decided to shout it out so the world can hear my sufferings and the misery of our people. I should say that I wrote what I wrote out of no bad will for anybody but in defense of the suffering Church of the Southern Cameroons and in resistance to the oppression defenseless civilians were (and are still) undergoing as a result of the malevolence of military bastards and political sycophants sent by the Yaoundé political cabal to my homeland.
Another influence is that I could not (and still cannot) understand – as I expressed in the Open Letter – that French Cameroon bishops (which the Archbishop is among them) could maintain such blameworthy silence without any public declaration decrying the whole act, after whole bishops (their brothers of the British Cameroons) are taken to civil courts. On this, I am still not sure by writing to him the letter, I was crying more than the bereaved on this matter. I also wrote the Open Letter when I keenly reminded myself of the disaster that will befall a country when real men prefer to look the way and keep quiet in times of overwhelming ethical crisis. I considered a beautiful and chaste portrayal of the German World War II calamity painted as follows in writing by one man of wisdom: “The story is usually told of how Years after the devastation of Germany in WW2 …
There was a meeting of German eggheads … And the question was how did it come to pass that a nation that produced Great Thinkers like Friederich Nietzsche. Karl Max …Albert Einstein….Bruno Bauer. Friederich Engels… Etc ..etc…get seized and goaded into ultimate destruction by a looney like Hitler… Who was not even originally German but Austrian!!!! The thinkers came up with the conclusion that complacency and indifference until it became too late … Was the main cause!” The real misfortune of German history at that point in time was not the ruthless sycophancy of an Heinrich Himmler or the gullibility
of the German populace.
The real problem is that only very few German Churchmen,philosophers, artists, theologians and scientists identified Adolf Hitleras the personification of wickedness. The penalty paid for such grand failure to call a spade a spade was the loss of 20 million lives and a huge demolition of property worth billions of dollars. Evil triumphs in communities when good and thinking men do nothing. I was driven by this famed idea to write the Archbishop.
More often than not other people tend to see the world only through their own eyes and thereby limit the truth only to what they know. These people are suffering from what psychologists call projection. So it is not surprising that some bigguns have accused me of dishonesty in my writings whereas what is in fact happening is that they are projecting their own dishonesty into the world; for as Jesus Christ himself said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”. That is, an evil man speaks only evil words and a good man speaks only good words. I will therefore not be surprised if dishonest people see
dishonesty in me; for is it not dishonest that good men like Fr Patrick Adeso, Fr Anthony Fontegh and Bishop Jean Marie Benoit Balla should be assassinated while those who accuse me of dishonesty keep guilty silence? Is such culpable silence not tantamount to flagrant dishonesty? I know that in all societies, writers are unwanted people. But what did people like Jean Marie Benoit Balla write before they were assassinated? Writing is my passion, a passion given to me only by God. Therefore no despot whether in Church or State can take away that passion from me. In challenging times I have sought wisdom from the Holy Writ, and
also from my ancestors in African Traditional wisdom. Our indigenous people say that „every community has enough firewood in its own forests for all the cooking it needs to do‟. I have been „community‟ as a result of my independent spirit, a „community‟ of my own uniqueness. Haven given myself to celibacy, this has been good for me. With no wife, no child, I have been ready for anything. Maximally alert of any threats to my life. I knew the government was searching for me. I knew the Catholic Church of Cameroon was dismally expecting me to come back so I could be taken to the Inquisition of interrogation, suspension
or stressful concentration camp of an appointment to cry my ass out there, or as it has sometimes happened, even sell me out to the
Cameroonian forces of lawlessness and disorder. I have made no mistakes. Actions premeditated. Words measured. Appearances
theatrical. I have survived.
Let me be clear. My verses for my Catholic Church came not from maddened contours of jaded thoughts.
It is a Church I love with my whole heart and even if I were to be punished by the Church Hierarchy for my iconoclastic writing, there is an aboriginal Catholicism within me that no hand on earth can erase. My reaction to the recent hunt after my life as a result has been vigilance. I suffered in Rome alone. Interrogations filled the air.Threats, espionage, and surveillance, and sometimes from unexpected quarters. And someone has been playing the drum in the bush and they are dancing in the middle of the road. In this internal anguish, my strength has rested on one man‟s shoulder – God; He who spoke truth into my conscience to speak truth to Episcopal power has been omnipotent enough to shelter me from the wolf.