How are things in Fontem? Many people are asking for the latest news from this the first Focolare small town in Africa, in South East Cameroon, an area afflicted by an ongoing armed conflict. Here is a recent letter from Etiènne Kenfack and Margarit Long, the Focolare coordinators for Fontem, who are currently living about 300km south, in Douala.
Dearest friends of Fontem all around the world!
Our thanks for expressing such concern about our situation. Your participation gives us joy, comfort and the courage to carry on.
The socio-political crisis of this region, which has led to acts of violence, remains unresolved. The sound of gunfire has ceased at present, but the situation remains tense.
Life goes on. People are still arriving at our hospital looking for help, even though now we are only able to offer a much reduced service. Over the past few months 1,894 people have come for a consultation. 644 of these were admitted for treatment, including 36 pregnant women who have since given birth.
It’s now the rainy season, so we’re trying our best to keep up with essential maintenance on the electricity sub-station which supplies power to all the main infrastructure in Fontem. A small group has remained looking after the Mariapolis Centre, and together with others they’ve formed an amazing team taking care of the grounds in order to prevent the tropical forest from taking over the land.
Recently, to everyone’s great joy, Bishop Nkea sent a priest to Fontem once again. This is an unequivocal and tangible sign of the Bishop’s care for the Bangwa people. The new priest is in close contact with the local leaders of our Focolare community there, and of course his presence has facilitated participation in the sacraments, especially Sunday and daily Mass. Also in this most recent period, the anniversaries of two Fontem pioneers – Pia Fatica and Fides Maciel, both buried in our cemetery – were solemnly commemorated.
We are very concerned about the exploitation of the media for political gain. All too often we’ve noticed news being circulated which is most definitely incorrect. So we’re appealing to you to regard any news about Fontem, including on personal social media platforms, with the greatest responsibility and prudence. Please try to verify the original source of any such news before sharing.
Our own “strategy” in this crisis is to increase the communion and collaboration between everyone who has remained in the little town, in order to achieve joint decision-making. As you can imagine, this is not always easy! It can take time and effort, again and again, to listen to one another really well. However, it’s clear to all concerned that this is the only way to go ahead together and continue witnessing to the life Chiara Lubich brought to this land.
Aracelis and Charles are responsible for the Focolare community in the first little town in Africa. They tell us about the current situation and explain how life is going on in Fontem today.