FEATURE: Should Christians Defend Themselves in Cameroon?

By Tatah Mentan, Friday, September 22, 2017

Good Christian? Bad Christian? It all depends on who’s doing the evaluating. Human rights abuses including security force killings, wanton night raids of homes, arsons, torture, beatings, rape, , and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; and arbitrary arrest, extortion, and detention of citizens advocating freedom, local human rights monitors and activists, persons not carrying government-issued identity cards, and others. There are numerous incidents of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial

Prof. Tatah Mentan

detention and of infringement on privacy rights. The government harasses and imprisons journalists, restricts freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, and impedes freedom of movement. Official corruption is pervasive at all levels exemplified by civil administrators shooting and killing unarmed citizens like what happened in Mamfe on September 22, 2017. Sexual violence and discrimination against women, cultist murders and removal of organs for ritual activities, trafficking in persons (primarily children). Politically motivated killings and politically motivated disappearances are rife and no longer news in Cameroon. Even Bishops and priests have not been spared.
Can a Christian be authorized by the Bible to engage in Self-Defense in Cameroon?

Self-defense here is defined as “protecting oneself from injury at the hand of others.” Self-defense is not about taking

vengeance. Self-defense is not about punishing criminals. Self-defense involves preserving one’s own health and life when it is threatened by the actions of others. When we speak about using potentially lethal force in self-defense, we’re talking about using weapons to protect ourselves and others, even if the weapons used could kill the attacker.

Sevidzem Cyprian.
Part of the crowd at the funeral ceremony of 16-year-old Sevidzem Cyprian.

Let us look at the concrete situation of Cyprian Sevidzem, the 16-year-old who was gunned down by trigger-happy, looting, and torturing soldiers in the village of Kifem was laid to rest at a church cemetery in the town of Kumbo, Wednesday September 13, 2017, amidst a rousing proclamation by youths belonging to the Ambazonia Defense Forces declaring Kumbo the first town in the Southern Cameroons to be captured by the forces. As reported by Cameroon Journal, this was after a tear-jerking church service that drew thousands of mourners, friends, family and well-wishers of the deceased.

When we hear this question (Should Christians defend themselves in Cameroon?) our minds are immediately drawn to the use of guns or other weapons. However, before considering the implications of the answer, a fundamental consideration must be given to the general question of self-defense. Is it permissible for Christians to defend themselves?

We might consider Jesus’s words in Matthew’s Gospel, where followers of Christ are taught not to resist the one who is evil, but, “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and give him the other also” (5:39). Most Bible commentators see this slapping as a personal insult rather than an act of physical violence. Instead of returning an insult or another blow, the believer is to be content to endure the stinging slap.

On the other hand, we do see examples of believers offering self-defense. In fact, Jesus foretold that his disciples would need to defend themselves against accusations, even noting that the Holy Spirit would aid them in their defense (Lk. 12:11-12). And the apostle Paul found himself regularly defending himself (Acts 22:1; 24:10).

The more controversial question has to do with whether or not Christians may defend themselves with use of force (even lethal force) when in danger. In particular, can a Christian carry (and use a gun), use force, or otherwise act to stop an attack upon himself or others?

Some Christians say “no” because we should embrace persecution from those who are ardently opposed to the faith. It is true that Christians are to pray for those who persecute them (Mt. 5:44) and patiently endure persecution (1 Pet. 2:19). However, not all violence is persecution. And the Bible does not forbid us from fleeing from violent persecution (cf. Lk. 4:29-30; Jn. 8:59, 10:39; 2 Cor. 11:32-33).

Others may claim that while the government has the power to use the sword to protect its citizens (Rom. 13:1-7), we as ordinary citizens do not. Most people who would hold this view would support the police and military’s right to use force (even lethal force) as an application of a passage like Romans 13. However, the Bible does not specify police or military; it simply refers to the government. In fact, the bible did not imagine a government being a criminal syndicate and a perpetrator of crimes against its own citizens like in Cameroon. The rogue state has given the police and military the right to defend its citizens by use of force on paper. In the case of Cameroon, the gangster regime has not given its citizens the right to arm and protect themselves and others in the face of imminent danger. Hence, the regime will give 370, million frs.CFA ( as the budget for murdering Southern Cameroonians) to a murderous force of more than 5,000 armed mindless killers, socalled keepers of law and order. What law and what order? Peace, indeed! If Christians have no biblical issue with the police and military defending its citizens against attack, then there would not seem to be a biblical case to oppose individual citizens doing the same against hired killers, rapists, arsonists, torturers, and home raiders by night. In conclusion, I believe that self-defense is biblically permissible for Christians, especially in a murderous state like Cameroon.

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