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An Interview with Father Jude Thaddeus Langeh Basebang, cmf



Gordon: When did you attend John Paul the Great Catholic University? What degree did you earn? Who was one of your favorite teachers, and why was that teacher your favorite?


Father Jude: I attended John Paul the Great Catholic University from 2016 to 2018. I graduated with a Master's Degree in Biblical Theology. I have good memories of all my teachers, and I thank them for their dedicated services. I must single out Dr. Michael Patrick Barber, PhD professor of Sacred Scripture and theology, and author of numerous scholarly articles and publications here. He was outstanding in the Old Testament scriptures and also taught us Greek. Another professor I admired very much is Dr. John Kincaid, PhD Professor of Theology and Scripture, who has published many books. He helped us in Pauline studies. These two were my favorites.


Gordon: When did you attend Aquinas Institute of Theology, what degrees did you earn, what was your favorite course, and why was that course your favorite?


Father Jude: I attended Aquinas Institute of Theology from 2018 to 2023 and graduated in May 2024 with a Doctorate in Preaching (Homiletics). I also have a Graduate Certificate in Teaching Preaching as Ministry and Profession from the same institute, having taken the course from 2022 to 2023.


I enjoyed the introductory course known as Theology of Preaching. Right at the beginning of our studies, we were asked to define our theology of preaching. I had always aimed to witness to Christ through preaching. So I defined my Theology of preaching through the analogy of witnessing. Christians of the early Church understood the word "witness" in its Greek denotation (a "martyr"), involving giving testimony to Christ to the point of death (Acts 22:20). To talk of witnessing, therefore, is to talk of martyrdom! Most apostles preached, witnessed, and gave their lives for Christ. Nearly all the apostles died bearing witness to Christ through their martyrdom. Five months after defining my theology of preaching as from the perspective of witnessing (at the beginning of this program), I was kidnapped alongside four others as we went on a missionary trip to one of our missions. For seven days, we were tortured and we almost lost our lives. Then did I truly understand the meaning of preaching as witnessing.


Gordon: Where did you attend seminary, what was your favorite course, and why was that course your favorite?


Father Jude: I was in the Bishop Rogan Minor Seminary from 1992 – 1999. By then, my favorite course was mathematics! Not religious studies! Please don't ask me why. For my philosophy degree, I attended Claretian Institute of Philosophy Nekede, Nigeria. I later attended Ecole Theologique Saint Cyprien de Ngoya from 2006 - 2010, where I obtained my Theology Degree. During my philosophy degree studies, I read the Autobiography of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, which made a deep impression on me. I started loving anything related to peace studies, dialogue, nonviolence, and reconciliation. That is why my First-degree Long essay in philosophy was on Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence, while my theology degree was on Muslim/Christian Dialogue in Cameroon.


Gordon: Tell us something about your parish.


Father Jude: For two years (2010-2012), I worked in Saint Gregory the Great parish, Douala as an assistant parish priest and youth chaplain. From 2012 to 2019, I served as a weekend vicar at Saint Anthony Mary Claret Parish in Yaoundé. I have been helping the anglophone community in Saint Charles Lwanga Parish, Yaoundé. As you can observe, I have not been full-time in the parish for a long time now. I spend much time during canonical visitations visiting our confreres working in the parishes that Claretians work in. I love parish work. It gives me joy anytime I visit parishes especially in the peripheries. Since 2012, I have been in administration, on the leadership team of the Claretian Missionaries in Cameroon as Secretary, Prefect of Apostolate, and Counselor. These were combined with the functions of Superior and Formator in our Philosophy Formation Center. Then, since 2019, I have served as the Major Superior of Claretian Missionaries in Cameroon. So, what can I say about parish ministry? Working in multicultural contexts has been very interesting, especially with young people. I love parish ministry, especially in cases where the people are from diverse cultural and political backgrounds.


Gordon: At least 6,000 Cameroon civilians have been killed by both government forces and armed separatist fighters since late 2016 in the North-West and South-West regions. What can be done to reduce these killings?


Father Jude: You have asked me a challenging question here! I must tell you it is difficult. I cannot give you a more straightforward answer other than that we should trust God. All human solutions are nothing compared to Divine intervention. Cameroon needs a divine intervention; I must tell you. My heart bleeds for the ongoing socio-political crises in my country. It can be challenging, especially when you have to preach to a culturally and politically divided people. It becomes more difficult when you are in a leadership position, administering brothers from different parts of the country. I have always encouraged the Claretians in Cameroon to live in peace as a sign to the world around us that it is possible to live together. We adopted "Ut Unum Sint" as our motto during this period. Before any public address, we always say, "Missionaries, in Community, Ut Unum Sint." We understand this to be a tangible sign of unity; we must be united. I believe that we do not only have to reduce these killings, we have to STOP these them! And this requires that everyone moves into the game.


I understand, value and cherish peace even more now. Many of us have been hurt in the course of this unfortunate crisis going on in Cameroon. I have been kidnapped and my car has been hijacked more than once. Many of my Claretian brothers have lived the same sad experience. Many sleep and work amidst gunshots. Many call me late in the night and, while I hear gunshots in the background, they say they are not sure to see the next day. Others have to go and celebrate mass in such situations amidst gunshots, unsure of the next step.

 

In all this, before proposing a possible solution to reduce the killings, I would like us to read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NABRE)


And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.


  1. Each of us must see ourselves as an instrument of peace. We should pray like Saint Francis, Lord, Make me an Instrument of your Peace.

  2. What of those who have suffered? We should avoid shifting the blame on others and take responsibility. This involves total forgiveness. After such an experience of suffering, people find it challenging to understand the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I have come to realize that forgiveness is a gift from God and a decision that always begins with the victim. After going through a kidnapping, I agree with Martin Luther King Junior that "Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude."  I know those who kidnapped me. I know how to get back to them. The only option I have if I must get to them is to forgive them. If not, I must understand that “he who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” And what am I, if I do not love?

  3. I have not talked about the Government or the separatist fighters. First, I insisted on the personal level because if we are reconciled, then the Government will be. We live in a divided context in Cameroon where tensions and conflicts have taken root. Here, the Church can play a pivotal role in fostering peace, reconciliation, and social cohesion.


In effect, let me tell you that the Church in Cameroon, whether Catholic or Protestant, has the power of convening. The Church in Cameroon (especially the Catholic Church) can help resolve conflicts and unite people by using different ways to mediate peace. People recognize the power of the Church. That is why when Cameroon's crisis peaked, the International Crises Group threw back the task to the Catholic Church to mediate peace. But a cross section of the country's population is frustrated with the ongoing crises while many have lost their lives, many are in prison, and so many people are hurt, everyone is beating around the bushes instead of addressing the problem. As such, I must say that all stakeholders must stand and play an active role in sending the crisis: individuals, Government, Church, international community, etc.


At the beginning of this crisis in 2016, our Government thought it was very easy to solve the problem. They thought intimidation through the military could be the solution. Similarly, the protagonists of change and separation thought it would come very quickly. But we are already in the 8th year, and the crisis goes deeper and deeper. We must come to realize that there must be true dialogue. People will say that there have been efforts, yes. But as we talk about this crisis, those who began this "peaceful protest" are in prison. Who does the Government want to dialogue with then? The Government also organized the "Grand National Dialogue." This was a wonderful initiative; however, what good did that bring?


There is no more sense of the sacred. The kidnapping and radicalization of this cause by the separatist groups have gone to an extent where even the late Cardinal Tumi, Bishops, traditional rulers, priests, religious, and laity have been kidnapped, and some have undergone irreparable trauma while others have known death. From the side of the military, it is not easy either. I still cry because of a seminarian who was killed in Saint Theresa’s parish, Bamessing, by the military. I still think of the priest who lost his life in Mamfe because of the military. Do you count the number of houses and entire villages burnt down either by the amba-boys or the military? Amidst such confusion, who takes the blame? In such a state, how do we dialogue? In such a situation, any position you find yourself in is dangerous. It is easy to sit in air-conditioned rooms, make proposals and read them to people who are suffering on the ground. It is at this point that I say to the Government to liaise with the Church to mediate peace in Cameroon.


Gordon: Please share with our readers some information about the pollution challenges in Cameroon and what can be done to reduce them.


Father Jude: I have been very worried about how polluted our country is. This worry has led me even to write a book in French on the nefarious effects of pollution on society. In effect, pollution is a severe hazard to Cameroon's environment. In Cameroon, we can easily encounter the traditional kinds of pollution: air, water and land pollution. But in addition, you would easily face noise pollution too. Just move along the streets in Cameroon and see for yourself the amount of sewage. To boost production in the agricultural sector, herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are replacing our natural manure, bringing about hazardous results that affect plants, animals and even humans. In Cameroon, we can no longer distinguish rainfall seasons as before; cold and warm seasons are no longer consistent. The danger of ecological crises, especially when it concerns environmental pollution, is a danger to human beings. Ecology teaches us that there is no absolute distinction between the environment and me. The destruction of the environment is the destruction of the person. In effect, a biocide is tantamount to suicide.


Addressing pollution in Cameroon requires a multifaceted approach involving government policies, community participation, and sustainable practices. To reduce pollution, there is a need for a fight, and we all need to get practically involved in that fight. With the support of our benefactors, Claretian missionaries in Cameroon have taken the lead in providing clean water and sanitation to villages and vicinities in need. It is our contribution to fight pollution that comes through water. But there is a well-known and more inclusive approach to this situation; picking up papers, not using plastic papers, not urinating by the road, not littering the streets and our environment... These are some simple actions we can practice in our fight to provide a less polluted and more conducive habitat here in Cameroon.


Gordon; Thank you for a powerful and exceptional interview. I am asking all of our readers to pray for you.

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