After determining that one of their confreres was murdered two weeks ago, the bishops of Cameroon have called on the national government to take up its task of protecting human life.
Bishop Jean Marie Benoît Bala of Bafia, who was 58, left his residence late in the evening of May 30. He disappeared, and his car was found parked on the Sanaga bridge near Ebebda, about 25 miles northwest of Obala. His body was found June 2, about 10 miles from the bridge.
A note was found in his car which reportedly read: “Do not look for me! I am in the water." This gave rise to the belief that he had committed suicide.
However, an autopsy showed that the bishop had not drowned, and there were signs of torture on his body.
“Given the initial findings, we, the bishops of Cameroon, affirm that Bishop Jean Marie Benoît Bala did not commit suicide; he was brutally murdered. This is one more murder, and one too many," read a June 13 statement from the Cameroonian bishops’ conference.
The bishops noted that there have been a number of clerics and consecrated persons whose murders in the country have never been solved, citing, “to mention only a few": Fr. Joseph Mbassi, killed in 1988; Fr. Antony Fontegh, 1990; Archbishop Yves-Joseph-Marie Plumey, 1991; a group of religious sisters in Djoum, 1992; and Fr. Engelbert Mveng, 1995.
“We have the impression that the clergy of Cameroon are particularly persecuted by obscure and diabolical forces," the bishops wrote.
They called on the Cameroonian government “to shed complete light on the circumstances and the motives" for Bishop Bala’s murder and that those reponsible be identified and handed over to the authorities.
The bishops also asked that the government “assume its noble task of protecting human life, and notably that of ecclesiastical authorities."
They said they are praying for Bishop Bala’s murderers, asking them “to strive for urgent and radical conversion."
In light of the rumors that spread about the bishop’s supposed suicide, the bishops addressed the media and social media users, asking them “to renounce defamation, lies, calumnies, and recommending that they respect the dignity of the human person, truth, modesty, and discernment in the use of certain information."
Addressing the people of the Dioese of Bafia and Bishop Bala’s natural family, the bishops said: “keep courage, for Christ has conqured the world. Your pastors carry with you the dolour of this sad disappearance. Do not let your faith fail."
“Find the necessary strength in the celebration of the Eucharist," they advised.
“May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, Our Lady of Sorrows, Patronness of Cameroon, accompany us in this difficult trial."