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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #42

CAMEROON

Country rank

42

Persecution score

63.99

Last year’s rank

48

Region

Africa

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Very strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Strong), Organized corruption and crime (Strong), Christian Denominational protectionism (Medium), Ethno-religious hostility (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

25,958,000

Christians

15,922,000 (61.3%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Christianity

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Paul Biya

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the church in Cameroon through:
• Equipping and training
• Socio-economic development projects
• Caring for new believers
• Emergency relief

ABOUT CAMEROON

 What does persecution look like in Cameroon?

The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram is active in northern Cameroon and has created a hostile environment for Christians. Christians have been kidnapped and killed, and churches were targeted and attacked. Because the government is often focused elsewhere, it’s given an opening for Boko Haram to expand and continue attacks that target Christians.  

In areas where Boko Haram is active, church activities have been hindered or disturbed. Due to the displacement of people, churches have not been able to function normally in those parts of the country. In other areas, security injunctions have set heavy restrictions on church activities. 

In Cameroon, it is very difficult for Muslims who want to convert to Christianity. In predominantly Muslim parts of the country, there has been a process of radicalization. When Bibles or other Christian literature are found in their possession, converts from Islam have been threatened. They are not free to express their faith or Christian beliefs—even to immediate family—because doing so exposes them to the risk of violent responses from their community.  

Many Christians with a Muslim background face problems with local communities in remote areas in the northern regions, where the central government is not strong enough to keep peace and religious freedom—or to defend these areas from attacks by Islamic extremists. Female converts from Islam are often forced into marriage with non-Christians, and Christian women also face the danger of abduction by Boko Haram.  

How women experience persecution

Christian women in northern Cameroon are subject to a number of forms of persecution related to their status in society. Boko Haram often abducts women and girls, uses them for forced labor, and forces them into marriages with extremists. Where schools are still running, some Christian parents keep their girls at home out of fear for their safety. 

When a Christian marries a Muslim and they later separate, the family often refuses to hand over the children, because they insist the children must be brought up the Muslim way. 

Partly due to a lack of education, women in Cameroon are dependent on their husbands or fathers, and when they make the decision to convert to Christianity, conversion is seen as an act of defiance. In this situation, girls are sometimes coerced into marriage with non-Christians. 

In many cases, Muslim families will isolate converts or relocate them to force them to change their minds. In one account, a young convert mother was separated from her husband and forced to leave behind her oldest child with him. Because of the persecution situation, she also had to leave her second child with her Muslim brother, who ended up entrusting the child to another Muslim neighbor. 

How men experience persecution

In general, discrimination affects Christian men in the area of job opportunities. They also experience pressure from government officials when they oppose corruption. When a man refuses to get involved in unethical practices because of his Christian beliefs, he is taunted and called a coward. When jobs are refused due to discrimination, the family cannot thrive.  

In community life, persecution plays out in various forms, starting with the lack of educational opportunities for Christian boys. Social boycotts also affect Christian families economically, financially and psychologically. Also, several times Christians have been falsely accused and have received unfair trials in conflicts with Muslims. 

In cases of kidnappings, most often a man or boy is taken, leaving Christian families without a primary source of income. Communities have shrunk in size due to such attacks, and many leave for safer areas. 

For young men, there is pressure to participate in traditional rites of passage and other non-Christian religious rituals. Violence and outside pressure often affect the generations within the church differently; young Christians may begin to lack confidence in the authority of parents and church leaders, and ignore their emphasis on non-violence.  

What has changed this year?

In the time since last year’s list, Cameroon rose six spots on the 2021 World Watch List. Persecution has increased in almost every sphere of life for followers of Jesus in Cameroon, and violence has increased, as well. It is a troubling trend for this sub-Saharan African nation.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Any kind of strong, stable government—and the security that it provides—is difficult to establish and develop in Cameroon. Christians experience violence for their faith in the far north, where Boko Haram continues to mount attacks; an insurgency is growing in the northwest and southwest regions. Additionally, converts from Islam are particular targets in their communities.  

 

How can I help Christians in Cameroon

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Cameroon?

Open Doors’ programs in Cameroon aim to support the church in the areas of persecution preparedness, discipleship training and economic empowerment.   

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Cameroon, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-In the north of Cameroon, people’s lives have been disrupted by Boko Haram violence that has spilled across the border from Nigeria. Many Christian communities have faced targeting. The level of intimidation these believers face is extremely difficult. Pray for peace in the storm. 

-Pray for converts from Islam, that they would be protected from violence and oppression at the hands of their family, friends and community. 

-Pray God would protect Christian women in Cameroon who are at constant risk of abduction, forced marriage and sexual violence at the hands of Boko Haram. Pray they will be protected, that victims will find healing from their trauma, and that God would confuse and undo the schemes of the Enemy.

 

A PRAYER FOR CAMEROON 

God, we ask You to keep our sisters and brothers in Cameroon safe from harm. We ask particularly that You would spare them from violent attacks at the hands of Boko Haram. We pray You would change the hearts of Islamic extremists, that their sinful deeds would be overwhelmed by Your love and Your grace. We pray You would give hope and joy to Your people in Cameroon. In Jesus’ name, Amen.