Dozens of Pentecostal Churches Being Shut Down in Cameroon

Cameroon has decided to close down dozens of Pentecostal churches due to claims of "criminal practices" from the government.

President Paul Biya, who has led the West African nation since 1982, ordered last month the closure of several Pentecostal churches in the name of public safety.

Mbu Anthony Lang, a government official, told reporters in a statement that the order involved safety issues rather than opposition to the Pentecostal Movement.

"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," said Lang, as reported by BosNewsLife.

The dozens of churches, including around 10 in the capital Yaoundé, were guilty of "extortion," "repeat nocturnal uproars," and "proselytizing," said Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary.

"The administrative authorities which are responsible for the preservation of public order had to take responsibility," he added at a press conference held last week.

Supporters of the government's order point to incidents involving faith healings gone wrong and other disruptions of the peace.

According to Tapang Ivo Tanku of CNN, the government's action against the Pentecostal churches has not only already taken effect, but also will expand.

"Biya is using the military to permanently shut down all Pentecostal church denominations in the nation's capital, Yaounde, and the North West Regional capital, Bamenda, which have the largest Christian populations in Cameroon," wrote Tanku.

"More than 50 churches have now been closed, with the government targeting nearly 100 in eight other regions."

The World Watch Monitor reports that while Cameroon is a majority Christian population with a constitution that guarantees freedom of religion, there are certain government regulations for churches.

"This law stipulates that the exercise of religious worship should be subject to the approval of the minister of interior affairs, and authorization by the president," said WWM.

"Officially, only 47 permits were granted to Churches or Christian organizations between 1990 and 2009, whereas about 500 denominations are operating across the country."

WWM also reports that efforts to crack down on non-recognized churches in Cameroon are not novel in nature.

"A number of Pentecostal churches in Cameroon have been closed in recent years by local authorities following complaints by residents," said WWM.

Boniface Tum, bishop of the Christian Church of God in Yaounde, said in a statement that the system of registering churches was a violation of religious freedom.

"Authorizing only the Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Muslim, and a few other churches, is a strict violation of the right to religion," said Tum.