In a statement issued Tuesday, the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon affirmed that the most recent bishop to die was brutally murdered. "We the bishops of Cameroon are convinced that Bp. Jean Marie Benoît Bala did not commit suicide; he was brutally murdered. This is one more murder, and one too many," they declared.
Last week, Church Militant reported on the torture and murder of Bp. Jean-Marie Benoît Bala of the diocese of Bafia, whose body had been thrown in the Sanaga River June 2. Early news reports had speculated that his death may have been the result of suicide. An autopsy report, however, determined that the bishop had been tortured and killed prior to his body being cast into the river.
In their statement Tuesday, Cameroon bishops laid out a series of unresolved deaths of fellow clerics from 1988 to 1995:
We have the sad memory of several other prelates, members of the clergy and consecrated persons murdered in circumstances that have not been clarified to this day. In particular, we remember Monsignor Yves Plumey (Ngaoundéré - 1991), Father Joseph Mbassi (Yaoundé - 1988), Father Antony Fontegh (Kumbo - 1990), Sisters in Djoum (1992), Father Engelbert Mveng (Yaoundé – 1995), to name only those.
A more in depth and detailed list of these unsolved murders suffered by clerics in Cameroon was included in Church Militant's report last week:
The bishops believe their clergy are especially targeted by the forces of Hell. "We feel that the clergy in Cameroon are particularly persecuted by obscure and diabolical forces," their statement reads.
The prelates urged Cameroon police to resolve these murders and bring the criminals to justice. "The bishops demand that all light be shed upon the circumstances and motives of the murder of Bishop Jean Marie Benoît Bala and that the culprits be identified and handed over to Justice to be judged according to the law."
They called upon the State to assume its "duty" to protect human life and "especially that of the ecclesiastical authorities." Urging the murderers to undergo a "radical conversion," the bishops pledged to pray on their behalf. They also called upon the media to report news completely and truthfully.