Winnie Nwafor and Frantisek Slavicek from the Focolare community of Fontem informed us of the news: “On April 2, 2014, the Fon of Fontem, Njifua Lukas , died suddenly. He passed away while being rushed to hospital.”
We remember the historic encounter between Fon Lukas – who had inherited the legacy of his father Fon Defang – and Chiara Lubich in May 2000 when Fon Lukas conferred on Chiara the title, Mafua Ndem (Queen sent by God), making her an honoured member of the tribe. The ceremony was given in the presence of the entire population of the Bangwa tribe in the natural amphitheatre in front of the Royal Palace in Azi. Chiara responded by narrating the history that was shared by focolarini and Bangwa ever since 1964. She invited everyone to make a strong and binding pact of mutuall love “in which they commit,” she said, “to live in peace with one another and to re-establish peace if it is ever broken.” Chiara invited Fon Lukas to make the same pact with the Fon of Fonjumetaw as a way of drawing other peoples to unite in the same spirit.” From here the New Evangelisation project was born, and it was entrusted to the “twin Fons” as they came to be called from that day.
From that moment a close correspondence began between Chiara and Fon Lukas, who kept her abreast of all the meetings, developments and impact of the New Evangelisation among the population.
Fon Lukas had been in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, where he was working as a State Senator. From Fontem they write: “The news of his death took us completely by surprise and the population was overcome with sorrow. Everyone headed for the Royal Palace in Azi, with any means possible – on foot, car or motorbike. The Fon’s body arrived at the Palace between three and four o’clock in the morning and was given a traditional burial in the morning. In the days that followed many members of the Focolare community went to the Palace to comfort the family.“ Focolare president Maria Voce sent condolences and prayers from the Focolare Movement “at the sudden departure of a dear brother and friend.”
In 2001 Fon Lucas had been awarded the Luminosa Award and in his address at the permanent Mariapolis in Hyde Park, NY, he said: “The New Evangelisation launched by Chiara Lubich in 2000 gains more and more footing in Fontem. The fruits have been so many that we pray God that it will be possible for the whole world to experience it.”
In March, 2008 upon receiving the news of Chiara Lubich’s death, he left for Rome immediately, obtaining a visa in record time. He was accompanied by the Fon of Fonjumetaw and became one of the principle promoters of preparations for the “Cry Die” of Mafua Ndem Chiara that was held in January 2009, a grand celebration that had the unanimous support of the entire tribe.
Winnie and Frantisek conclude: “We are thankful to him for having supported and watched over the work of the Focolare Movement in Fontem, and for having welcomed all (and there were many!) who came to live in the Mariapolis during his reign, simply because they were members of Chiara’s family, no matter where they were from. The doors of the Palace were always open to us. Now we are certain that he will continue to intercede that love will always reign among his people, as Chiara had said in 2000: “Also in the future the vocation of Fontem will be that of the ‘city on a hill’ so that everyone will be able to see and admire and imitate.”