Lessons from Cameroon

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For Good Samaritan Sister, Anne Dixon, attending an international prison chaplains’ conference in Cameroon roved to be a confronting and heartening experience, reports The Good Oil.

Anne (pictured second from left) was one of 130 delegates from 59 countries who attended the thirteenth World Congress of the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (ICCPPC) in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, in October.

“The conference was an amazing experience,” said Anne. But she also admits it was “confronting” on a number of levels.

This was Anne’s first time in Africa, and although she has travelled to other developing countries and witnessed poverty before – she has been a member of Rosie’s “Friends of the Street” team for the last 18 years – Anne found the vast slums of Yaoundé confronting.

“[It’s] that stark poverty that we don’t have in Australia where there are thousands of people sleeping under cardboard and makeshift tin houses.”

Arriving at the conference venue, the Catholic University of Central Africa, to learn the whole town was without water was a little disconcerting for Anne. By the next day the water problem had been fixed, but such issues are not uncommon for people in countries like Cameroon.

Given Anne’s ministry as a chaplain at Melbourne’s maximum security Port Phillip Prison, you could say she is no stranger to confronting situations. But Anne was shocked by the appalling conditions she encountered at a men’s prison in Yaoundé.

On the day she visited there were about 15 men housed in rooms that were about twice the size of cells for one man in Australia. The conditions were cramped and squalid and the men were under constant armed guard. Anne was told there would normally be about 40 men in each room.

Anne shared this experience with some of the men at Port Phillip Prison. “They were really interested and quite horrified when I compared their cells. That kind of blew them away,” she said.

FULL STORY Cameroon experience confronting but heartening (The Good Oil)

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