Islam and Christianity in Northern Cameroon - from Confrontation to Difficult Dialogue

  • Jarosław Różański Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Faculty of Theology
Keywords: Islam; Cameroon; Christian-Muslim dialogue; Catholic missions; Kirdi; Fulbe


The earliest inroads of Islam on the northern edges of today's Cameroon came from northern Africa. They led all the way from Arabian Egypt and Libya still in the times of the Berbers. Early islamification yielded Moslem states, created mainly in the area of Lake Chad. This first onset was connected primarily with acquiring slaves and new subjects. The next inroad of Islamic infiltration came from Fulani infiltration of territory in northern Cameroon, beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century the Fulani conquered northern Cameroon, although numerous enclaves of the Kirdi peoples evaded their authority. The Fulani achieved much greater mastery over the Kirdi during the time of French and German rule. They took advantage of their dominant political position and of their cooperation with the colonizers. In this way they brought about the greater islamification of these lands, but they did not win the majority of the population to their religion. In the mid-20th century Catholic and also Protestant missionary activity began a robust development in Kirdi territory. Their activity was restrained by the Fulani leaders. Additionally, favoritism of the Fulani and Islam in northern Cameroon continued after Cameroon gained independence in 1982. The intense rivalry began, however, to give place to a more peaceful coexistence, and even cooperation in many areas of social life. The time had arrived for a difficult dialogue, a dialogue which continually struggles with the past, with prejudice, and with a lack of understanding among many religious and political leaders.


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