Nine years of hard work and struggle against a backdrop of terrorism and extremism will climax on Saturday (8th July) when people of faith in Cameroon celebrate the consecration of their new cathedral built by Muslims as well as Christians.
Bishop Bruno Ateba Edo of Maroua-Mokolo said the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin in Maroua, in the north of the country, will be a symbol of unity.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), one of the organisations funding the construction, spoke to Bishop Edo who said: “In a city with over 600 mosques, it is important to show that the Catholic Church also has a presence.”
The diocese is in one of the poorest regions of the country and has suffered multiple attacks by extremists.
It is home to a large number of internally displaced Cameroonians and Nigerian refugees who have fled from terrorist group Boko Haram.
ACN has also supported several aid projects for refugee children in the area, as well as a refugee camp for victims of Boko Haram.
Bishop Edo said: “We are proud and happy. Finally, we have a worship space where we can celebrate the Holy Mass with dignity.
“Mass had been celebrated either in a small, run-down church”, or in what Bishop Edo calls a “bio-cathedral”, under the canopies of trees.
The bishop added: “Everybody shares our joy, regardless of their religion.”
According to ACN sources, local authorities granted land in the city centre for the construction of the cathedral, and many locals, including Muslims, were involved in the building work.
The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin has room for 3,500 worshippers, and its decoration is a blend of Christian and traditional African motifs.
A local artist painted the interior frescos, with help from his students.
Bishop Edo explained: “For us, these paintings are catechetical, because ours is still a very young faith.”
The main artistic themes are the Assumption and the maternal protection of Our Lady.
The contours of the building are designed to evoke the Virgin Mary’s mantle embracing and protecting the faithful.
The inner columns are positioned to form the letter M, and the four pillars holding up the ceiling are shaped like a star that reaches upwards, symbolising the Assumption.