YAOUNDE - Muslims around the world are marking Ramadan with prayer and fasting. In Cameroon, Christians and Animists are joining Muslims for the evening meal as a show of solidarity against the terrorist group Boko Haram, which has been carrying out attacks in the north since 2014.
Hundreds of people gather at Yaounde’s largest mosque to pray and break fast. But not all are Muslims. Christians have come to share supper. They wait outside in the courtyard while the Muslims pray.
"The message is just one: let Cameroon remain [the] same. Christians and Muslims should live together. We should not discriminate and we pray for a better Cameroon,"said Charles Nzobo, an elder at the Catholic cathedral across town.
Fear of tensions
Cameroon does not have a history of religious conflict. But some fear that the Boko Haram insurgency in the north is creating tension and suspicion between Christians and Muslims as it did in Nigeria.?
About a quarter of Cameroon’s population is Muslim. Authorities have arrested dozens of Muslim clerics for their alleged support for Boko Haram. But those gathered at the mosque say people should not generalize.
Joseph Ndinga, a notable from the nearby traditional ruler’s palace at Tsinga-Yaounde, says gathering to break fast is a show of solidarity with the Muslim community that will help fight Boko Haram.
“It is African tradition. If somebody is either enjoying or in pain, there is that aspect that you go to your brother or sister, be it he is having something bad or something good," he said.
For Muslims, Ramadan is the holiest month of the year. Some imams say only Muslims who have fasted should partake of the evening meal.
But Muhamadou Labarang, secretary of the mosque, says all are welcome. He begins with a prayer.
He says they share collective meals in respect of the holy Koran’s prescription that the faithful should share so as to have favors and blessings from God. He says they thank God that Muslims and non-Muslims can live together in Cameroon and they pray for peace.