By BosNewsLife News Center
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON (BosNewsLife) — Evangelical Christians in Cameroon faced an uncertain future Sunday, April 29, amid fresh reports that local authorities are seeking to control the "surging numbers" of Pentecostal churches in Western African nation.
Many of them have been set by pastors from neighboring Nigeria, where Pentecostal churches have mushroomed.
Distinguishable by Gospel, and often loud, music, these churches are found in the most densely-populated areas. With names like Christ Chapel International, Witness Chapel, and Redeemed Churches Of Cameroon, they are growing massively, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported.
However pressured by influential Catholic leaders, who apparently fear competition, concerned officials reportedly stepped up efforts to close down some of the churches. Catholic leaders have said Pentecostal churches often "lure" believers to worship there.
Although the nation of over 18 million people is officially a secular state, the South West Cameroon governor's office, together with police, were reportedly among the first to close down some of the Pentecostal churches.
Christopher Ambe, a local journalist in the south-western town of Buea, told the BBC that the majority of the churches had not been legally registered.
"Some of them had a very noisy way of worship – using loudspeakers to preach," he told BBC World Service's Reporting Religion program. "They are disturbing what Cameroonians would refer to as the quiet enjoyment of others."
Nigerian Victor Praise, a senior pastor of the Houses Of Truth Assembly, said he has been worried by the government campaign. "What I did was find out what they want from us, and do it," he told the BBC. "They said that if the church was not registered, it would be closed down."
He said most Pentecostal churches are run by Nigerian pastors who have "a vision of what theywant to achieve in Cameroon." Praise said that while some of the pastors are charlatans looking to make money, this is not the case with all of them.
"It is a test of the spirit. God sends those people there, testing the pastors to know whether these people are out to make money or not. I do not minister for money. I minister to impact on the lives of people," he claimed.
Officials refused to comment on the apparent new policy regarding Pentecostal churches. Yet, Professor Alan Anderson, from the Pentecostal Global Studies Department at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom said the Cameroon government has a history of a "hands-on approach" to social issues – including churches.
"It has tended to be that new churches are seen as intruders – particularly when they start proliferating," he told the BBC, adding that "part of the ethos of Pentecostalism is to spread as far as you can."
He said, "There are also limited leadership opportunities in Nigeria now, so many Nigerians see neighboring countries as a possible place to start churches – and thereby make an income as well."
Tharibi Joseph Mbe, a former worshipper at a Pentecostal church in Mamfe, explained that some of these churches "attract so many people because they promise some many things."
He stressed that, "One is healing. Another is providing riches to so many people – especially in Cameroon, where very many people live in poverty and are affected by disease – when they hear such messages, they decide to go there."
However Mbe cautioned that in some cases, "when they reach those places and don't find a solution to those problems, they leave."
Some evangelical Christians have argued however that the biggest miracles are often not physical or financial, but when people accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior "as that provides eternal life." Christians comprise 40 percent of the population, Muslims 20 percent and indigenous beliefs 40 percent, according to United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates. (With reports from Cameroon and BosNewsLife Research).
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