BENEDICT XVI MEETS PYGMIES
BY STAFF REPORTER
A GROUP of Pygmies from Cameroon showed up to give Pope Benedict an unscheduled send-off last Friday as he prepared to depart for Angola.
The 15 Pygmies from the Baka ethnic group came to the Pope’s residence at the apostolic nunciature in Yaoundé. They built a ceremonial hut out of leaves in the garden of the residence and the Pope came out to greet them.
The Pygmies, including grandparents, parents and children, sang songs and danced to the beat of drums, and then gave the Pope three gifts: a basket, a cloth mat and a turtle, which is a symbol of wisdom in Cameroon and a traditional sign of respect.
The Baka Pygmies inhabit rain forests in southern Cameroon, the northern Repub lic of Congo, northern Gabon and the south-west part of the Central African Republic. A hunting and gathering people, they number fewer than 30,000. They hunt with spears and poisoned arrows and practise beekeeping and fishing.
Their religion is animist: they worship a forest spirit called Jengi, and after every successful hunt they perform a dance of thanksgiving.
Their way of life has reportedly been threatened by the logging of the rain forests.