Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya has ordered the closure of nearly 100 Christian churches in key cities, citing criminal practices organized by Pentecostal pastors that threaten the security of the Central African nation.
Among the affected churches was Winners Chapel founded by Nigerian pastor, David Oyedepo.
Reports say last Sunday, a 9-year-old Christian girl had collapsed and died during a prayer session in Winners’ Chapel.
The girl’s mother, Mih Theresa, told CNN Wednesday that the pastor intended to cast out the numerous demons that were in control of her daughter’s life. In tears, she told CNN:
I want the government to stop these pastors who use mysterious powers to pull Christians and kill them for more powers. All my children have ran away from the Catholic Church in search of miracles, signs and wonders,”.
Another Christian, Mveng Thomas, said his marriage ended abruptly when a Pentecostal pastor ordered his wife to dissolve their union. He said the pastor described him as “an unrepentant devil.”
Government officials also say that some pastors convince their members that they do not need professional medical treatment for their ailments.
“How can a pastor say the sick needs no medical doctor? We need sanity in our Christian lives,” Nyang Blaise, a youth leader for Biya’s ruling party, CPDM, told CNN.
One woman said her mother was refusing cancer treatments because of her pastor.
“My mother’s condition is worsening after doctors confirmed she had cancer. She is dying silently, and yet we cannot persuade her to see a doctor for proper treatment, against her pastor’s wish,” Deborah Tanyi said.
Mbu Anthony Lang, a government official in Bamenda, also told CNN on Wednesday:
We will get rid of all the so-called Christian Pentecostal pastors who misuse the name of Jesus Christ to fake miracles and kill citizens in their churches. They have outstretched their liberty. Nearly 500 Pentecostal churches operate in Cameroon, but fewer than 50 are legal.
So far, President Biya has shut down more than 50 churches, targeting nearly another 100 in eight other regions.
In reaction to the shut down, the affected pentecostal pastors say the move is evidence of Biya’s insecurity about the churches’ criticism of the government. So, they are transforming their private homes into churches.
Boniface Tum, a bishop of the Christian Church of God in Yaounde, said that Biya, who has been president since 1982, is becoming insecure about the freedom of speech within these churches.
“Authorizing only the Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Muslim, and a few other churches, is a strict violation of the right to religion,” Tum added.