Interview with Fr. Carlos Luis Suárez Codorniú Superior General, on his recent visit to Cameroon and Chad.
The official visit to Cameroon and Chad, from March 9 to April 14, was the first after the lockdown imposed by the pandemic. Moreover, you came at a time when the pandemic risk in Cameroon has worsened. I think it was also your first encounter with these lands. What impressions and feelings did this trip leave you with?
It was the first visit after a one-year stop. We began this visit with Fr. Charles Charles Aimé Koudjou (ed. General Councillor appointed a few months ago). It was a time of grace to find the confreres; we spoke with everyone personally and were able to visit almost all of the communities, except for two that are in risky areas.
At the end of the visitation there was the annual provincial assembly, which you attended. What is the state of health of SCJs in Cameron and Chad?
In good health. The Dehonian province is young, strong, very active and committed in many fields and on various fronts. It is open to serving the local church and congregation. They strive to carry out accurate service not only regionally, but also in neighboring countries such as Chad and Nigeria.
On April 20, 2021, Chad’s President Idriss Déby was assassinated . The presence of Muslims is 51.1%, while that of Christians is 44.1%. How do Christians live and, in particular, how do SCJs deal with the situation?
In the south of Chad I have been able to see a good coexistence. The Christian presence is very well known and significant. A progressive Islamization is noticeable with the construction of mosques and the conversion of leaders to Islam (perhaps for political rather than religious reasons). Good is the relationship of our brethren with their neighbors. I would say, an exemplary coexistence.
And in Cameroon? Even in Cameroon, especially in the north, there is violence, refugees and displaced persons. The English area, above all, is marked by internal conflicts.
In the eastern area one can see a strong presence of refugees from the Central African Republic. There are large refugee camps followed by the United Nations.
In the west, the conflict in the English-speaking region has caused internal emigration to the south or to Central African Nigeria. Our confreres have remained in the northwest part of Cameroon. A few bishops have given thanks for our presence where so many others have fled. Our brethren have remained and are a source of consolation for the population. They try to give “normality” to life: they give education, they have managed to make agreements with hostile groups, to be peace workers. Our presence is a beautiful work for reconciliation and guarding the lives of the weakest. We can be proud of our confreres and it becomes a commitment to pray for them.
At the end of the provincial assembly we always look to the future. Can you tell us if there are any new projects and how the congregation can support the Dehonians in Cameroon and Chad?
The province has renewed its missionary commitment especially in the far north, which is very difficult in many ways. A new presence will be opened in a diocese where we are not yet in both northern Cameroon and Chad. The presence in these territories that truly are frontline, authentic human peripheries, as Pope Francis says, is strengthened. It is a very nice way to respond to the calls of the Church to accompany these brothers and sisters who live in these regions.
One last question: what has been the greatest richness you have found in the brothers and the people?
First of all, welcome, knowing how to welcome the other, making room for those who arrive, the joy of meeting and being together. In personal relationships, I have seen a great willingness to serve both at the local level, but also in other parts of the world, in other entities. A willing heart to serve the gospel.
Thank you and see you next time….
Yes, certainly the next one will be in Italy, in the southern Italian province.