YAOUNDE - This Christmas, both Christians and Muslims are praying for peace to return to Cameroon. Until a few years ago, the country never experienced serious violence or unrest; but, the Boko Haram insurgency in the north, the spillover of violence from the Central African Republic and the turmoil in Cameroon's English-speaking regions have made life difficult for many.
Thirty youths representing churches and mosques are roaming the streets of Cameroon's capital, urging everyone to pray that peace returns to the trouble spots of this central African state.
Among the singers is Bertrand Bayaga of the Full Gospel mission. He says he does not want more bloodshed in Cameroon.
Bayaga says he is praying for the government to be tactful and tolerant in finding solutions to all problems, because he does not want the country that their forefathers shed their blood for, to achieve its independence and unity, to be divided.
A nationwide prayer campaign was organized by pastor Jean Libom Li Likeng of the evangelical church of Cameroon.
The pastor says he organized the prayers to call on God to urgently come to the help of the Cameroon nation. He says through the massive participation and prayer he witnessed, he is satisfied that the country's elite and people of God have understood that God is calling them to contribute in bringing peace to Cameroon.
Peace under attack
At the Yaounde central mosque, Imam Oumarou Issa says he is respecting the call for prayer because peace is under attack.
"Every one of us must apply the command of the almighty God to live in peace, in harmony with the other people everywhere," he said. "We are and we must be, all of us, without any distinction, ambassadors of peace."
Cameroon had not experienced any major challenges for decades. In the past few years, however, it has been enveloped by the bloody Boko Haram insurgency in the north, incursions from armed groups based in the C.A.R. and calls for secession from two English-speaking regions where many feel ignored by the country's French-speaking majority.
Peter Ndzelen, who attended Christmas Day services at the Yaounde cathedral, says he especially hopes the government will engage in sincere dialogue with the secessionists.
"It is good to bring people together, [for them to] express your [their] minds, bring the advantages and disadvantages of one system [of government] or the other and you talk and agree. It is not a taboo. Do not think that the person who is claiming independence or anything is somebody who cannot even change his mind or sit at the table and talk," he said.
Cameroon is due to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in 2018, with longtime President Paul Biya expected to seek a seventh term.