YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Cameroon Christians have started guarding mosques during prayer sessions and Muslims are also guarding churches after five attacks on mosques by suspected Boko Haram fighters.
The fifth mosque was attacked by a teenage male suicide bomber near the central African nation's border with Nigeria on Monday.
Boko Haram is now attacking not only churches, schools and markets, but mosques, making Cameroonians more united to fight what they call a common enemy.
At a recent morning prayer call in the central mosque at Mozogo, located on Cameroon's border with Nigeria, the faithful assembled while members of the local vigilante committee kept guard to ensure no stranger is given access.
Among the vigilantes is Jacques Mabali, 55, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon.
Mabali said he responded to the call of his church's hierarchy to protect the Muslim faithful when they gather for their religious obligations.
He said he is carrying out a social activity for the well-being of his country, that it is his duty as a Christian to defend his country from violence.
Ibrahim Moctar, a Muslim youth leader in Mozogo, said they reciprocate for neighboring churches, because the insurgents have attacked Christians as well.
Moctar said he not only prays for God to save Cameroon from the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, but to end terrorism. He said some of his family members are Christians and others, like him, are Muslims.
The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has been active in Cameroon for three years, looting, killing, and burning schools, markets and churches.
To assist government
The vigilante groups were created to assist the government against increasing attacks by Boko Haram, which even began using female suicide bombers early last year.
In December 2015, suspected members of Boko Haram, which said it was attacking Cameroon to create an Islamist state, started attacking mosques.
Governor Midjiyawa Bakari of far north Cameroon congratulated Christians and Muslims for working together to protect the country from the terrorist group and urged others in the country to follow the example.
Bakari said he visited areas in Mayo Tsanaga, on Cameroon's border with Nigeria, where Muslims and Christians have taken to guarding each other during prayer services.
He said this relationship is helpful in assisting Cameroon and Nigerian soldiers as they fight the Boko Haram insurgency. He said it makes Cameroon an example of inter-religious tolerance.
Cameroon believes the militants have resorted to attacking mosques because they have come under attack because Cameroon and Nigerian troops have raided Boko Haram strongholds, which has limited their ability to stage attacks.
Of Cameroon's 23.7 million people, 40 percent are Christians, 20 percent Muslims ,and the rest hold indigenous beliefs.