By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The retired Roman Catholic Cardinal, Christian Tumi died in Douala on Friday, April 2 breaking Saturday, April 3, 2021, after what reports say of a brief illness. He was 91-years-old by the time of his death.
Many have described him as a veritable servant of God as for over 40 years his life was devoted to winning souls to Christ. Cardinal Tumi has been vocal in calling for dialogue and peace as the Anglophone crisis in the North West and South West Regions entered its fifth year.
The Archbishop of the Douala Metropolitan Archdiocese, Mgr Samuel Kleda has announced that the funeral of His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi will take place from the 19th to the 20th of April 2021 in Douala.
“Christian Cardinal Tumi was the first and only Cameroonian Cardinal. He was a staunch advocate for a just society, a defender of the rights of the oppressed, suppressed and marginalized. His death is a great loss to our nation and humanity. May he find eternal rest in the Lord,” Felix Agbor Nkongho “Balla”, Human Rights Lawyer and activist said.
“His Eminence Christian Cardinal Tumi was not just a religious leader within Cameroon but a father to many including me, I have lost an icon. Papa Tumi was a man of the people; he went beyond religious boundaries, descended and transcended religious boundaries…” Rt Rev Fonki Samuel Forba, PCC Moderator told a CRTV journalist as he paid homage to the fallen Cardinal.
“All I pray is that we religious leaders in Cameroon should be able to emulate him, carry on his legacies and keep them to the end. The legacies of bringing peace in our land, the legacies of justice, transparency and accountability, the legacies of being the voice of the voiceless and the legacies of bringing Cameroon into a united front…” He added.
A veritable Peace crusader
Cardinal Tumi was an ardent lover of peace and was one of those who were championing the peaceful resolution of the ongoing Anglophone crisis. He amongst other Christian Bodies like the PCC, Baptist, and the Imam of Buea initiated the All Anglophone General Conference, though the conference did not see the light of day as it was banned by the Cameroon government.
Cardinal Tumi was also amongst those who participated in the Major National Dialogue, a dialogue many have lambasted as having no barring in solving the crisis. During this meeting, a host of resolutions were taken in solving the crisis and some of them are being instituted, though observers say the government is not tackling the crisis as it should be doing.
His relentless efforts for peace have often seen him on the cross-hair of those fighting for separation. The cardinal had sometimes been accused of siding with the government of Cameroon and was even abducted by the non-state armed fighters.
In his recent outing to his village Nso, on Thursday, November 5, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. he was intercepted and abducted by the liberation fighters in Ndop; he was detained in their camp overnight for questioning (and released the following day), together with the Paramount Fon of Nso, His Majesty Fon Sehm Mbinglo (whose release took place later on Tuesday 10). They were on their way to broker peace deals in the village of Nso which has been hard-hit by the current socio-political crisis rocking the country, but unfortunately, their mission was never fulfilled.
In his last book titled: My Night in Captivity, he narrates his ordeal in the camp of his abductors. In an interview with ACI Africa Tuesday, January 12, the co-author of Cardinal Tumi’s memoir, Martin Jumbam said that it was important for the Cardinal to narrate his experience with the kidnappers because “the government has always suspected him of supporting opposition forces in Cameroon.”
“… In the book, the Cardinal makes his position very clear that he does not support these guys in the bush although the government suspected him of being one of the supporters because he tells the separatists, very clearly, that he does not support what they are doing,” Jumbam said.
Who was Cardinal Christian?
Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Archbishop emeritus of Douala (Cameroon), was born on 15 October 1930 in Kikaikelaki, a small village in the Nso Clan, situated in the Northwest Region, of Cameroon. He resigned as Archbishop of Douala in 2009 after being head since 1991.
He was ordained a priest on 17 April 1966 (at 35) in Soppo, diocese of Buea, by Bishop Julius Joseph Willem Peeters † M.H.M. From 1966 to 1967 he carried out his ministry as a parochial vicar at Fiango (Kumba). From 1967 to 1969 he taught at the Bishop Rogan College minor seminary. In 1973, after having studied abroad, he returned to his diocese and was named rector of the major regional seminary of Bambui, archdiocese of Bamenda. He was also chaplain to the Catholic Women Association and was very involved in promoting the ecumenical movement, obtaining much esteem from Presbyterians and Baptists.
He was elected on 23 April 1982 vice-president of the National Episcopal Conference, and on 19 November 1982, he was promoted to Coadjutor Archbishop of Garoua. On March 17 1984 he was made Archbishop.
In 1985 he was elected as president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (until 1991). He also served as president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), 1990-1994.