Fontem, Cameroon and the Light of Mafua Ndem

During 19-28 September 2016, a delegation of 40 people from Cameroon, including nine traditional leaders, native Kings of the Bangwa Tribe of Lebialem, Southwest Cameroon, made a pilgrimage to Italy.
© CSC Audiovisivi – Caris Mendes

The nine traditional leaders (Fon) represented people from Nwametaw, Nwangong, Essoh Attah, Akum, Lewoh, Nkar and personalities of Bamenda and Douala. They were accompanied by Mafua Queens, two Mayors and other dignitaries from their kingdoms.

The purpose of their journey – besides celebrating the Year of Mercy with Pope Francis – was to thank God for the 50th anniversary of the first encounter between the Focolare Movement and the Bangwa people in Fontem. They especially wanted to thank Mafua Ndem Chiara Lubich (Queen Sent by God) as the Bangwa call her, for all that she did for their people. She and the Focolare were actually the answer to a prayer of the early 1960s that the Bangwa raised to God when sleeping sickness threatened to wipe out the tribe with a 90% infant mortality rate. Now a permanent Mariapolis has arisen in Fontem which bears the name of the Focolare foundress, and sleeping sickness has been nearly wiped out thanks to the intervention of doctors and nurses from the Movement.

19 settembre 2016 - 28 settembre 2016 Nel 50° dell'arrivo del Movimento dei Focolari a Fontem (Camerun), un gruppo di Fon visiteranno Roma, Loppiano, Trento e il Centro Internazionale dei Focolari, come ringraziamento e dietro i passi di Chiara Lubich.
© CSC Audiovisivi – Caris Mendes

The pilgrimage began at a general audience with Pope Francis on St Peter’s Square and a visit to St Peter’s tomb and those of other popes. Then there was a tour of St Peter’s Basilica.

“It is my precise duty to continue to teach this spirit that has changed my people,” said the Fon of Akum and vice-president of Fon Friends of the Focolare Movement, during a visit to the Focolare town of Loppiano which was the second stop on their pilgrimage. On that occasion the Regional Minister for International Cooperation, Peace and Reconciliation, Massimo Toschi, recalled the first time he visited Fontem, ten years ago: “In December we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary in Fontem, and we’ll see the shining face of a ‘field hospital’ Church as Pope Francis described it.”

The third stop was on September 24th in the birthplace of Chiara in Trent. They visited the places she lived in and where the Focolare Movement began during the Second World War. They met some of the local citizens, representatives from different institutions, the Mayor and the Archbishop.

Photo Credit: SIF Loppiano

The last stop was a visit to theinternational centre of the Movement in Rocca di Papa where Chiara Lubich had lived for many years and is now buried. The Fon of Fonjumentaw recalled Chiara’s last visit to Fontem in 2000 when she proposed a pact: a promise to love one another as Jesus would love. “This was Chiara’s testament,” he explained, “her legacy that is not only for our peoples. After that pact we were not the same anymore. Now, I invite you today to make the same pact with each other in the name of all humanity.”

During the send-off meal, there were greetings, words of gratitude and gifts that several Fons and Mafuas offered to the Focolare. One was from Essoh Attah. It recalled a proverb from his tribe that says that no Bangwa will ever drown so long as there is someone from the valley (the other tribe). He paraphrased it and applied it to Chiara: “So long as she and her people are there, none of us will drown.” A journalist from Bamenda, who had accompanied the group, concluded: “In these days my eyes have been filled with the light of Mamma Chiara, and I would like to go back to my people and take it to each one of them.”

See also: Story of Fontem

Thirty years after her last visit to Fontem (Cameroon)

Chiara Lubich And Religions. Traditional Religions

Fontem, a Jubilee of Thanksgiving

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