Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation

'Remaining in each own homeland is everyone's responsibility'

InTerris 16.10.2023 Giacomo Galeazzi Translated by: Jpic-jp.org

Appeal by Monsignor Bayemi Matjei, Bishop of Cameroon: 'Let us create wealth in Africa because everyone would rather stay in their homeland'

The right not to migrate must be guaranteed. Free to choose whether to migrate or stay. According to Pope Francis, ensuring freedom of choice whether to migrate or stay is everyone's responsibility. A distant goal, but possible "if we know how to work for it, without selfishness, putting the promotion of every person and the care of the common home at the centre of every development process”.

The Pontiff affirms: "The synodal path that, as Church, we have undertaken, leads us to see in the most vulnerable people (and among these migrants and refugees) special travelling companions to be loved and cared for as brothers and sisters. Only by walking together can we go far and reach the common goal of our journey".

Today, for many though not all, emigrating is not a free choice, but the only choice. Instead, every human being must first of all be assured "a right that has not yet been codified, but is of fundamental importance". That is "the right not to emigrate, that is, the possibility to live in peace and with dignity in one's own land". Knowing that “the world's resources are not unlimited, and that the economically poorer countries’ development depends on the capacity for sharing that should be generated among all countries”.

Right not to emigrate

Raising the Pope's appeal to guarantee the right not to emigrate is Monsignor Sosthène Léopold Bayemi Matjei. The Bishop of Obala, Cameroon, addressed the problem of emigration from his country through the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Obala is a rural diocese with about 800,000 inhabitants. More than half of them are Catholics.

"Not only Christians but all Cameroonians prefer to stay in their homeland. Looking at emigration figures to Europe, there has been an increase in Cameroonians emigrating to France and Italy for about 20 years. This is due to the worsening of the internal socio-political situation. For example, a doctor in Cameroon earns around 350 euros per month. With such a low salary,” says the prelate, “he cannot make a living. Entrepreneurship does not develop, because there is no decent access to economic resources. Our banks, which are all French or English, charge interest rates for loans up to 10-12%. France controls our currency, the CFA franc. This happens in Cameroon and 13 other African countries. And we are obliged to allocate half of our resources to the Bank of France”.


The bishop of Obala explains: “The boys would like to stay at home. However, they are forced to emigrate. For six years, we have been experiencing instability because of Boko Haram. Also because of the clashes between Anglophones and Francophones who use economic resources to subsidise their wars instead of creating and fostering the professional development, infrastructure and facilities our country needs. Corruption complicates and aggravates the situation. We are witnessing a race for power and fear a coup d'état”.

Another determining factor is climate change. The bishop continues: “In our region, the rains used to arrive in the August bank holiday period. However, for four years now this has not happened. We happened to be without water until the end of September. This has damaged arable land. Artisans have no job opportunities. Moreover, vocational training is not completed due to lack of resources. Another important issue is technology. There is a high technological capacity in the West that is not transferred to African countries. We have the human resources to meet the needs of industrial work if the right investments are made”.


In the face of a Europe perpetually grappling with the management of the immigration emergency, Monsignor Bayemi Matjei emphasises that prevention is crucial.

"Cameroon before the conflict between Anglophones and Francophones and before the violence of Boko Haram was an island of peace. Although around our country there were states with serious problems such as Chad, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic. We were aware that migrants would arrive from these lands. But we were not prepared to receive them. A complete change is needed. And to do this we need to start with emergency management. With the aim of creating a future, of giving hope. It is right to foresee the flows and regulate them with the means of state control, but it is better to give people the chance to stay at home”.

Fighting poverty

Bishop Bayemi Matjei then describes the limits of current development policies. "I have been a bishop for 13 years and I am very committed to development. I have met with representatives of the International Monetary Fund. I have asked them to engage not only with governments, but also with those who live in problematic conditions and should receive aid. Many contributions are misused. Because direct confrontation is missing, this generates paralysis. Interventions must cover the entire production chain. For example, Denmark years ago started a project to create water wells. They built infrastructure in the villages. They connected aqueducts to rivers. But they did not train the local people. They left the infrastructure but did not teach us how to maintain it. And we found ourselves without technical assistance and having to cover the cost of fuel to run the machines."

Investment and solidarity

As for concrete initiatives taken by the diocese, the prelate reports having developed a specific pastoral plan. "I have built an agricultural school to train young people after high school. Nevertheless, after the training, which lasts three years, it is necessary to enter the world of work. Therefore, we are creating cooperatives to train boys and girls. Some of them have joined. They have combined economic capacities. And they make investments on their own to increase production".

Monsignor Bayemi Matjei concludes with an appeal to European Catholics and in particular to the benefactors of ACN. "I know the Aid to the Church in Need projects and their great importance. ACN does good work: supporters must have confidence. Pastoral projects are important. So are those for self-development aimed at training young people and accompanying them in the work environment. Keep supporting us. However, let us create wealth in Africa. Help us to shape the right mentality, also through pastoral projects. It is not easy but it is important”.

See, “Restare in patria è responsabilità di tutti”

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The comments from our readers (2)

Dario 28.11.2023 Articolo Vero. Purtroppo il capitalismo ha idee diverse.
Margaret Henderson 12.12.2023 This article was very meaningful to me not just because I’m totally in harmony with the idea that people should not be forced to leave their homeland in order to make a living but because of Cameroon. I’ve been involved for at least 10 years in supporting a man from Cameroon, going to court with him, writing letters, phoning Cameroon aid agencies etc and I’ve learned a lot about that country’s problems. I was particularly shocked at the hardship caused in a number of countries by the Bank of France.